Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 31 of 45

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Twelve days had passed since the world had taken his brother, but for the first time when Ron woke in the morning, Fred's absence was not the first thing that crossed his mind. The first memory was not his brother's smiling, unmoving face or the mound of dirt he now lay beneath, but of the glorious memory of falling asleep with Hermione Granger locked in his embrace.

He would have done more to preserve the blissful memory if he had known how the rest of the night was going to go. They'd both woken up so many times he'd lost count. The first had been when Hermione had jerked the sheets away from him and the second had been when he'd jerked them back and she kicked him in the leg in reply. Then there had been the nightmare he'd awoken from with a start. He knew he hadn't been shouting because Hermione was still fast asleep on her stomach, but he knew it had been bad because he'd been sweating so much he'd handed all the covers back to her. He jerked the covers away from her later in the night and she'd grumpily given him a shove and pulled them back. It had been a constant back and forth all night long. He had no idea sleeping with somebody could be so eventful. If they weren't fighting for the covers they were fighting for space on the bed. One time he'd rolled over and she'd ended up with her face in his armpit.

There was one brief period in the night when they'd found each other again and seemed able to tolerate each other's presence in the bed. Somehow in their slumber, they'd returned to the wonderful position they'd fallen asleep in, but that's when he felt her start to shake. Her fists clinched momentarily in spasm and he felt her shoulders jerk like she was being shocked. Unsure how to respond after his unsuccessful attempt to wake her on the train, he just nestled closer to her, purposefully breathing warmly onto her neck to try to calm her, but it hadn't helped. He'd just had to lay there and feel her shake against him until, eventually, it passed. Now he woke up and as his eyes focused and he looked for her, he saw she was not in the bed beside him at all.

"Hermione?" He sat up, rubbing his eyes groggily, worried suddenly that the less-than-perfect nature of their night's sleep had caused her to retreat to the armchair in the corner.

"I'm right here." She said from the tiny round table to the left of the television. She had the same maps from yesterday spread out on the table, the giant book of names and numbers and a bright white piece of parchment that she was writing on with a short stubby quill without a plume. "I made you some tea." She smiled warmly at him and stood up to carry over a thin paper cup of steaming hot liquid.

"Thanks." Ron was relieved to see her smile as he took the hot cup from her hand appreciatively. "How'd you get tea?"

"I made it." She shrugged nonchalantly and made to go back to the table, but he reached out for her with his free hand. His touch was just soft enough that she could not help herself from smiling as she sat down on the side of the bed.

"How'd you make it?"

"They have tea and coffee and there's a sort of kettle in the bathroom that runs on electricity."

"An electric kettle?" Ron took another sip of his tea. She'd made it perfectly, with just the amount of milk and sugar he liked. He loved that she knew him like this.

"Yes, the electricity heats up water."

"Electricity." Ron grinned.

"Electricity," she repeated.

Ron glanced to the bed behind him that was in a state of disarray after their restless night of sleep.

"When did you get up?"

"About an hour ago," she dismissed, making no mention of just how many times he'd woken her up last night. She seemed oddly refreshed and bright-eyed. Ron wasn't sure whether he ought to mention their disastrous night of sleep or not. He was embarrassed and didn't dare ask if she had slept all right. "I just couldn't fall back asleep." Ron wasn't sure whether it was a pointed comment or not, but he could tell by looking through the window it was still quite early out.

"I can go see about getting us another room," he stated abruptly. Hermione just frowned at him.

"Why would we get another room?"

"Well, because last night…I don't know, last night didn't go so well."

"What do you mean 'didn't go so well'?" she laughed.

"Just…well, it seemed like we both woke up a lot," he admitted in embarrassment.

"Neither of us have shared a bed before," she laughed again, seeming to think nothing of it. "I'd be surprised if it didn't take some getting used to."

"You don't want to have your own bed then?"

"No, of course not." She seemed thoroughly amused by his question.

"Okay." He grinned widely. "Good."

"I can't believe you thought I'd want another bed." She laughed at him.

"Well, you did steal all the covers, you know?"

"I most certainly did not!" She laughed haughtily. "You kept stealing them from me."

"You took them from me like three times!" he argued with a laugh. "And you managed to take up about the entire bed."

"I did not!" She got to her feet suddenly, her hands on her hips and looking quite cross.

"And now you're a liar to boot!" Ron set his cup of tea down on the bedside table, amused at how defensive she'd gotten.

"I did not take up the entire bed," she maintained.

"You did so! I woke up like this in the middle of the night." Ron fell back to the bed and imitated how he'd practically been hanging off the edge of the bed at one point. "And you were like this!" He then sprawled out so his long and lanky limbs nearly filled the bed from end to end.

"Well, at least I didn't kick you in the middle of the night," she defended.

"Oh, you did that too!" Ron just laughed, now thoroughly amused by the entire situation, and loving that he could joke about sleeping with Hermione.

"I do not kick."

"Oh, yes, you do." He reached out with his two large hands then and boldly pulled her back onto the bed with him. He wasn't sure how she would react. It had always been verbal exchanges and a sparring of words between them. They'd never really flirted in a physical way like this and he wondered for a brief moment, as his hands wrapped around her, whether she would object to the possessive way he pulled her to the bed. She shrieked in girlish delight and, Ron liked to think, pleasure at the feel of his hands on her waist.

"At least I don't snore like a crumple-horned snorkack!" She fired and attempted to pull herself to her knees to scramble off the bed and return to her tea and maps. He just hooked one of his long legs around her waist and easily pulled her back down to the mattress with a laugh.

"A crumple-horned snorkack? That's the best you can do?" he chuckled as she struggled to free herself.

"Fine! You snore like Hagrid!" She shrieked with laughter and swatted him in the face with a pillow. He continued to grapple with her on the bed, pinning her arms and wrestling her down.

"You wake up next to Hagrid a lot then, do you?" he teased. His hands were braced on either side of her, trapping her there as she pushed against him stubbornly.

"You snore like a….a drunken manticore with a head cold!" she fired from beneath him. Ron could see she was trying desperately to contain the smile that threatened on her face at the ridiculous insult.

"You love it!" He laughed at the amusing image she'd conjured, but her laughter faded. She stopped trying to push his arms away.

"I do," she replied softly with almost no hesitation. He stopped trying to grapple with her.

"And I love you," he stated simply in reply.

He wasn't sure why he said it, why this moment. Perhaps it was the perfect honesty of the morning that gave him confidence, or the comfortable ease and familiarity of it all. Perhaps it was the memory of falling asleep together that made him leave his anxiety over the silly words behind.

He loved her. He always had.

"I know." He could see her lips curve into a smile and he laughed at the words that he'd heard a million times from Hermione.

"Of course you do."

"I was starting to wonder whether you thought it just meant thank you." She gave a teasing laugh then.

"Are you talking about last night, then?" Ron gave a sheepish smile.

"Yes. And last year." Ron was secretly thrilled by the admission that she still remembered that careless utterance a year ago. Their eyes were still locked on each other and he was still propped up over her.

"Is that why you kicked me then?" he laughed, bending his arms slightly so his weight lowered onto her. "Because you didn't think I knew what it meant?" he murmured the words so his breath was hot on her cheek. "Or because I snore like a manticore?"

"Because you snore like a manticore," she admitted, "but that's okay because I love you."

"I know," he echoed her words, this time covering her mouth with a soft kiss. He felt foolish for being so worried that saying the words would change things. Nothing had changed. They were still Ron and Hermione; they were just honest now, open in a way he'd never been with anybody in his life. He allowed his full weight to rest against her then as he deepened the kiss and released her arms from where he'd pinned them. They immediately wrapped around his head, but she withdrew just as suddenly.

"I should go brush my teeth."

"Stay," Ron pleaded.

"No, I should go." She attempted to wriggle out from beneath him.

"You're right." He relented, allowing her to move out from beneath him and swing her legs to the edge of the bed. "You still have morning breath."

She replied by wordlessly moving her whole hand over his face like she was trying to palm a Quaffle and shoving him back down to the bed. He grabbed hold of her arm as he went back and pulled her to the mattress with him.

"And you think you don't?" She was doing a poor job feigning offense, her smile overtaking her despite attempts to look cross with him and wrestle him away.

"I wake up perfect!" he laughed as their legs tangled once again on the bed. She tousled his hair roughly and he tickled her sides, she put him in a headlock and he pinned her arm behind her. They rolled and grappled atop the already messy bed. The intimacy of the positions they found themselves in seemed lost in the playful giggles and laughter. Ron desperately hoped he wouldn't get a stiffy and ruin the fun moment. His body shook with laughter at her resolve to beat him while she kneeled atop his chest and tried to overpower him, her white-knuckled fists trying to wrestle his arms to his side. She was fiercely determined not to let him win, seemingly oblivious to the advantage his long limbs gave him. It was a side of her he was familiar with. She'd always been competitive, keen on getting top marks in everything and never quick to back down from a challenge. This was new though.

Wrestling matches with Hermione.

He liked it. He wasn't entirely sure what they were even wrestling over or even if it had a point, but he was confident she was enjoying it just as much as he was. The new candour in their relationship was a bit thrilling. He reckoned that's part of what this little competition was about. It was friendly, it was free, and it was fun. This was Australia.

There was a moment when he flipped her to the bed and their eyes both locked, the brazen sexual nature of the position obvious to them both. She'd quickly resumed the wrestling match, unintentionally burying his face between her breasts as she tried to push him off of her. The temporary distraction, the feel of his nose pressed against places his hands had barely roamed, was enough for him to lose focus for an instant and allow Hermione to overtake him. She shoved his head into the bed, pinning it beneath her arm while the rest of his body was contorted at a bizarre angle, her legs tangled between his so he couldn't get leverage to move.

"Okay, fine! You win!" His choked laughter was muffled into the bed as he admitted defeat. "What do you want me to say?"

"Say..." Even though he couldn't see her since his face was still buried into the bed, he could tell she had no idea what she wanted him to say. "Say you have morning breath too!"

"Fine, I have morning breath too!" He sputtered with laughter as he said the words.

There was something so natural and comfortable about the morning he didn't want to think about leaving the bed, never mind the hotel room. Sleeping together had changed everything. Despite the kicks and the cover stealing and his nightmare and her tremors, it had been perfect. There was an optimism and a happiness to the morning that he couldn't recall feeling in the last week. There was no longer a funeral looming over his head, but the joyful thought of reuniting Hermione with her parents. He had a purpose, a mission to fulfil. He would bring the Granger family together. He would make Hermione smile like he'd made her smile on the bed this morning.

There was a reluctance to the way she departed to go change clothes and ready herself for the day, one which seemed to indicate that part of her wanted to do nothing more than stay on the bed together all day too. Her lips lingered on his when she'd stepped back from the bed at last and retreated to the bathroom. They were back to the way they'd been at the Burrow, kissing, cuddling, and rolling about the bed. Except, he realised, they were different now. They'd talked about things. They'd talked about sex. Sure, they hadn't been able to say it outright, but they'd talked about it. He no longer felt like such a randy perv. She thought about it too. Her actions this morning, despite what she'd said last night, made that apparent. Her kisses were hungrier and she no longer seemed to mind that he couldn't keep his hands off her. It wasn't like at Krum's where she'd pushed them away each and every time he touched her. In the privacy of their hotel room, she smiled when he scooped the hair off her neck and dropped a kiss there, his hands sliding low around her waist.

Once they crossed the threshold of room 514 however, she made it very clear that she would not tolerate such public displays. The optimism was still there though. She was still smiling. For breakfast they stopped at one of the shops he had been so intrigued by when he passed by yesterday and Ron got to try a bagel. She was highly amused at his amazement with the circular food.

"But why do they put a hole in it?" he asked curiously as she just tugged on his arm and dragged him back to the river's edge. She tried to be all business, feigning annoyance at his attempts to steal a kiss and boxing him in the ears when he tried to grab her bum. The Promenade in the morning hours was even busier than it had been last night and he assumed her sudden propriety likely had to do with all the strangers around them.

"Hopefully we'll be able to talk to your parents." Hermione tried to focus on the task at hand. "At the very least, we'll be able to exchange our Magical currency."

"Right." Ron wondered if the few galleons his mum had given him would be enough to pay for a dinner at the restaurant they'd walked by last night. Perhaps he'd take her out tonight after they finished searching for the Grangers. He doubted they would find them on day one, after all. He wondered how they would begin searching the city. The list Hermione had begun compiling last night and completed this morning was pages long. There were over two-hundred dental practices to search. He wondered if they would start on this side of the river or venture to the other side. He already liked this side better.

They passed mothers pushing prams, athletes out for a jog, and other couples walking hand-in-hand along the river and Ron forgot to be worried. He had such fun trying to steal a kiss from Hermione, he didn't look for hands in coat pockets or suspicious travellers. She didn't reprimand him when he succeeded in planting a fat kiss on her cheek when she looked down to check her watch. Ron reckoned part of her secretly enjoyed the public display, which along with their clasped hands told the world she was his and he was hers. He grinned and kissed her again, just as two blonde youths came brushing past either side of them. They weren't walking, but glided along on flat wheeled boards that intrigued Ron so much he forgot to be concerned.

"What are those?" He stopped in his tracks, and turned around to watch the boys continue to dart in and around other pedestrians.

"Those are skateboards," Hermione dismissed. "Bit annoying."

"They look quite fun," he admitted. The boys were jumping with the boards now and doing tricks the same way Harry did on his Firebolt. "Well, you know, for a Muggle invention," he quickly corrected.

"For a Muggle invention?" Hermione raised an eyebrow.

"Well, they don't fly," Ron scoffed, but his eyes were still clearly fixed on the boys and the boards now just small dots in the distance. "Still, I bet dad's never heard of them. I ought to bring one back for him. He'd probably like them." Hermione just bit her lip in amusement, well aware that bringing back a skateboard would be for his enjoyment as much as his father's.

"Come on." Hermione laughed and jerked her head in the direction of the Ministry. "You can message him and tell him all about it. I expect he'll be jealous of all the things you've seen."

"Television, bagels, room service, electricity," he rattled off in agreement.

"Electricity." The shy smile and look on her face made him want to immediately leave the river and return to the hotel. He thought about their wrestling bout this morning and their conversation last night beneath the sheets and the way she'd voluntarily pulled her shirt off yesterday. He wondered what today would be like back in the room. Suddenly, he found himself wishing it was the evening already.

The walk to the underpass seemed much shorter than last time and all the intimate spots he'd seen along the river didn't seem quite so cozy in the daylight hours. He saw the bench where they'd had their conversation and smiled when he thought about how much had transpired in twelve hours in this city. He eagerly awaited what the next twelve would bring.

Keeping an eye out for Muggles, he kept watch while Hermione pulled her wand out and unsealed the door. He knew the spell Hermione had used. It was the same one he'd used on every door for the last year. Ron supposed it was a pretty brilliant entrance to the Ministry. Nobody could open the old rusted door unless they used magic. Muggles could throw everything they had at it, but it wouldn't so much as budge. Hermione opened the door a crack and looked into the dark, making a move to step inside before Ron seized hold of her and yanked her back.

"Let me go first." His voice lost the playfulness it had all morning. He couldn't see anything inside and had no idea what lay behind the darkness.

"Ron - " she protested.

"Let me go first." His seriousness silenced her. He knew she knew better than to argue with him when it came to things like this. He stepped inside and quickly cast a Lumos charm, looking around the tiny space. It was damp inside and smelled like mildew. Ron could see nothing noteworthy aside from the blank cement walls and a large corrugated metal pipe stuck into the the floor. He remembered Percy's directions and walked slowly toward the pipe. His stomach churned when he peered down it and could see nothing but darkness.

"It's all clear," Ron called back to Hermione then. She walked inside and immediately sealed the door back up, then surveyed the ordinary room just as he had. There was nothing magical about it and nothing out of the ordinary aside from the giant hole in the centre that looked like it stretched forever.

"We're sure this is it?" He asked uneasily as Hermione joined him in looking over the edge into the abyss. "You're sure we're meant to jump down that? There's not like a stair or - "

"Yes, look." She held out the directions and Ron could tell by her tone of voice she didn't seem too keen on jumping down it either. "In the centre of the room is the primary River Street entrance disguised as a Muggle drainpipe. Passage down the drain is the only guest entrance," she read. "That seems to be the only way we can go."

"If we die at the bottom of this, you know I love you?" Ron was only half-joking as he said the words.

"We're not going to die." She took his hand and climbed onto the step beside the pipe. "Come on, we'll do it together. On three." Ron took her hand in his and put on his bravest face as they approached the edge. It reminded him a bit of jumping into the Chamber of Secrets or down the trapdoor. He'd done things like this before. Bloody Hell, he'd ridden a dragon. He could do this. It was just jumping into a black hole. He looked to her for assurance and she just nodded her head grimly.

"One," he began the countdown as they stepped toward the edge together.

"Two," she continued.

"Three!" They spoke the last word in unison and, with hands joined tightly together, leapt into the darkness. Hermione loosed a terrified shriek at the initial descent. The cement room and the small bit of light it offered immediately vanished as they plummeted into the darkness. Ron had never really had the sensation of freefalling for this long before. They just kept falling. Once he got over the initial shock, he found it was as exhilarating as it was terrifying. There was an odd sensation of suspension and support, almost like he was floating. He couldn't tell if Hermione was smiling too or if it was just the force of falling that pulled the skin on her cheeks back. Her eyes looked quite terrified so he squeezed her hand tighter, all the while keeping his other hand firmly wrapped around his wand. Still, they continued to plummet. Ron wondered how long it was possible to fall. He felt like they ought to be at the centre of the earth by now. Just as he started to worry whether there was any way this could have been a trap and they really were plummeting to their deaths, the small amount of pressure against his body relaxed and he was hit with the sudden feeling as if they had fallen into a giant vat of molasses.

He couldn't see or feel anything different, but he could only move his arms and legs with great difficulty. Hermione too attempted to kick and flail, but couldn't seem to move either as they sank slowly to the floor. He was cheered only with the knowledge that this was definitely magic. It was an uncomfortable feeling being unable to move and simply waiting to lower to the floor. He didn't even feel like he could move his mouth to speak to Hermione once he caught sight of the floor quickly coming into view beneath them.

As soon as their feet touched the bottom, the feeling abated. He could move. He could walk. He could talk. It was apparently nothing more than a charm to cushion their fall.

"Well, I'll give this country one thing," he laughed, turning around and looking back up into the dark hole they'd just descended down. He wondered how long they'd actually been falling. It felt like forever.


"It certainly keep things exciting."

"Certainly," Hermione replied breathlessly.

"If I hadn't thought for a moment we were both going to die, I'd almost say that was fun."

"Fun?" Hermione did not look so amused.

"It definitely beats the stairs in Bulgaria!" he reminded her of the winding stairs they had spent ten minutes climbing down. Hermione wordlessly agreed and then turned to look about the room they were standing in.

It looked to be something of an antechamber to a larger room. The room was circular and the walls were covered with a brightly coloured mosaic of smooth glazed tiles. He could see the words "River Street" spelled out beneath the pictures, a bland but colourful assortment of books, cauldrons, and magical creatures.. It was quite a welcoming entry and reminded Ron of the brightly coloured walls in the Bulgarian Council. He couldn't help but think the Ministry in London looked awfully gloomy in comparison.

"Welcome to River Street!" a voice suddenly sounded. Ron jumped and then looked around wildly to see an old man in a red waistcoat standing by the only door. He tipped his hat to both of them.

"Er, hello," Ron greeted the old man cautiously.

"Can I be of any assistance to you both today? Need help locating a shop? Want to know the best place for a cuppa?"

"Oh, er – I -" Ron stumbled over words, taken aback by the old chap's helpfulness. There was no office or window or desk in this antechamber. This man apparently had no other job but to help visitors.

"Where are the Ministry offices?" Hermione suddenly interjected.

"That'd be twenty-one North," the man informed, as if the words meant anything to Ron and Hermione. Fortunately, he seemed to detect the fact that they were newcomers. "That means in the north sector. When you walk through here, the street will divide," he pointed through the door. "North is that way – south is that way. Twenty-one will be on your right!" The man's eyes twinkled as they nodded, thanked him and continued onto River Street.

Through the doors was an enormous cavernous space that seemed to stretch endlessly and all along the walls were shop windows and doors.

"So this whole thing isn't the Ministry?" Ron's brows furrowed in confusion. He knew Hermione had explained this last night, but he'd been so mesmerized by the sights of Brisbane he had paid little attention.

"No, it's more like Diagon Alley," Hermione explained. "Mostly, it's shops, but there are some Ministry offices too."

"Did you know this was here when you had your parents come to Brisbane?" Ron inquired though he was already confident of the answer. It did look quite like an indoor version of Diagon Alley, except it wasn't nearly as crowded in the morning hours. It was big though and Ron found himself hoping twenty-one north wasn't too far away. The corridor seemed to stretch forever in both directions.

"Come on, he said it's this way." She tugged him along.

Ron was intrigued by the titles of the shops that were just opening for the day. There was Australian Rules Quidditch and Bettendorff's Bonbons. Part of him wanted to tell Hermione to leave him here while she went off to the Ministry offices, but then he remembered the whole reason they were going was to contact his parents. Ron was pleased to see several restaurants and he hoped perhaps by the time they left here it would be lunch time and he could treat her.

Number twenty-one had no storefront, just a heavy black wooden door.

"That looks very Ministry-like," Ron remarked and looked to the bronze directory next to the door listing all the departments inside. They all seemed rather mundane and Ron didn't see anything there that would assist them in any way. There was the Department for Magical Disaster Management, the Winged Horse Racing Council, the Expert Advisory Group on Spattergroit, the Magical Waste Authority, the Pygmy Goblin Heritage Committee and the Office for the Protection of Magical Flora.

"These don't seem like very important departments," he grumbled. "Where are the big offices? Like in London?"

"In Canberra. These are just the local Brisbane offices, but there are a lot of smaller federal departments here. There should be an office for international wizards here though. At least there was last year..." Her voice drifted off and Ron suddenly thought about last night and how quickly disappointment had set in when the library had been closed and they'd arrived too late to the Ministry. He'd kill this Ministry if they'd changed departments in the last twelve months.

"Come on." He pushed open the door and walked into what looked like somebody's living room. There was a large fireplace with a mahogany mantle and two wingback chairs. On the left of the room was a table made of the same deep mahogany as the mantle and a uniformed man in navy robes trimmed with red.

"Hello and welcome to the Queensland offices for magical development, infrastructure and planning," the man greeted and then proceeded to recite a very long message about the departments at the office. "Names please and the nature of your appointment."

"Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley," she spoke slowly, "we are…international visitors."

"May I see your wands, please?"

"Just see?" Ron bristled at the thought of relinquishing his wand. Hermione edged closer to him and rubbed his hand with hers.

"Yes, yes, just hold them up," the uniformed man dismissed, "and tell me the wood and core."

"Vinewood, 10 ¾ inches with a dragon heartstring and willow, 14 inches, with unicorn hair," Hermione recited. Ron pretended not to be flattered or surprised that she seemed to have the details of his wand memorized.

"You will have to register these down the hall. All international wizards and visitors must officially register before embarking any further."

"Where can we go to deliver a message back to England?" Ron butted in, annoyed by all the rules already.

"As an international wizard, you must register your wands before doing anything further."

"Yes, but after we register - "

"I don't think old Benedict is in today."

"Is there anyone we can - "

"You can come back tomorrow to deliver a message at the Overseas Owlery. They've got more than owls there and you can get a message to wherever it is you need." The man pointed out the door. "After you register tomorrow, you'll find it's just across the way there at 24 north." Ron grumbled something under his breath to the man that he was pleased Hermione didn't hear.

"Can you at least take us to the Office for International Wizards?" he demanded, feeling his blood begin to rise. "It used to be here."

"Yes, I'm afraid that office moved. It's over in Ascot now at the racetrack."

"The racetrack?" Ron frowned.

"Who is it you need to see?"

"Why won't you just help us?" Ron growled. "We're trying to find her parents and get in touch with mine!" he explained

Hermione touched his arm and spoke his name in warning. Last time, he'd let his temper get the best of him with a Ministry employee it was back in England and then they'd ended up in the wrong place. He took Hermione's hand on his arm as a cue and tried to calm himself.

"Like I said, the Office for International Wizards has moved." The bald man spoke a bit more kindly this time, the revelation that they were two apparently parent-less teenagers in a foreign country seeming to move him slightly. "I suppose they can register your wands there."

"So how do we get there?" Ron was so relieved he forgot to say thank you.

"I can't let you use the Floo Network without registering, but you see that back wall there?" The man motioned to where a series of large thick cut numbers from zero to forty hung on the wall. Ron and Hermione slowly walked to the back. They reminded Ron a bit of the toy blocks he'd used to play with as a child. "You'll want twenty-six." Twenty-six was higher up than Hermione could reach so he lifted it off the rack and gave it to her.

"Great, what do we do with this now?" Ron snorted.

"Both holding on then?"

"Not another effing Portkey," he grumbled under his breath as he realised what was about to happen. Travelling by Portkey wasn't as unpleasant a feeling as Apparition, but he could do without the feeling that he was being jerked around everywhere. The first time he'd travelled by Portkey at the Quidditch World Cup he'd nearly been sick and had tumbled to the ground in a heap. After travelling around the world, he was quite skilled at sticking the landing and arriving upright now, but he was quite eager to be done with them.

"Welcome to the Office for International Wizards," a chipper voice sounded as soon as he and Hermione let go of the Portkey and their feet landed on the ground. Ron quickly got his bearings and looked to find the wizard who had greeted them. Unlike the man back at River Street who had navy robes trimmed with red, this employee wore dark burgundy robes trimmed with navy over his skinny frame. He too sat behind a large desk, but he was considerably younger, which Ron hoped woud mean he would be more helpful somehow. "What is the nature of your visit to Australia?" he inquired brightly.

"Ummm…" Hermione looked to Ron uncertainly.

"Business or pleasure?"

"Well, it's business I suppose, but not in the financial sense. It is personal though, so I suppose that's pleasure."

"Business or pleasure?"

"Neither," Ron sighed. "We're trying to find her parents." The implication that Hermione's parents were somehow lost caused the young man's' face to suddenly soften.

"Right. Well, let's take care of the paperwork first so you can….get started. Your names, please?"

"Hermione Jean Granger."

"Ronald Bilius Weasley."

"Crikey…" The young man's mouth fell open. "Why you're…"

"That's right." Ron stood a bit taller. Hermione looked rather embarrassed.

"Is Harry Potter here with you as well?" he asked excitedly.

"No, it's just us," Ron replied and was surprised to see the man didn't look all that disappointed.

"This is all just protocol, I assure you. Just need to register you and – and get you your I. . Security's been a bit tight here the last few years. You'd know all about that, I'd reckon," he spoke admiringly.

"What are I. W. Is ?" Ron was annoyed by the thought of paperwork.

"International Wizard Information- just exchange visitor passports. You'll just need to fill this out." He handed them a long piece of parchment. "And this." He handed them another. "And this proof of intent that you plan to depart after completion of your…er…task."

"All this just to travel in your country?"

"Security precautions, m'afraid." The skinny young man shrugged apologetically.

Ron grumbled some more and sat down in the closest chair. A desk, complete with quill and ink, immediately appeared before him as he sat down with the paperwork. He filled out his birthplace and his date of birth and his level of education and his parents' names and other useless information he couldn't possibly imagine could serve a purpose other than delaying them in their task.

"Do you think…" Ron paused as he got to the blank lines for sibling names and he turned to Hermione. "Do you think I still put Fred?" He rolled the quill between his fingers and looked at the empty line beneath George's name. "Even though he's…do you think I can still write him?" Ron felt uncomfortable somehow not listing him as a sibling.

"If you want," Hermione replied softly.

"I don't feel right...not."

"Then write him." She gave a simple shrug, but Ron could see her rolling the quill between her fingers. She looked a bit like he probably did whenever she talked about her parents.

"This all seems stupid," Ron grumbled about the paperwork as he scribbled in his brother's name.

"It's pretty standard," Hermione dismissed. "Viktor said he had to do all of this when he came to study in England."

"Doesn't seem too friendly to visitors." He looked across to see Hermione had filled out much more of the parchment than he had. "What did you write down for length of visit?"

"I didn't put anything."

"So you didn't put anything for return date either?" Hermione just shook her head. "This is so annoying."

"It is tiresome. At least they let you fill out your wand information yourself instead of taking it," Hermione offered positively.

"That's true."

"How come we didn't have to do this in France or Bulgaria?"

"Because we were just travelling through. We don't know how long we'll be here," Hermione explained quietly. Ron immediately wished he hadn't said anything. Back at the Burrow, his mum and dad had assured them they would locate Hermione's parents in a matter of hours. Ron had even been dismissive about returning back in a few short days. But the blank spot on the parchment about their return date and length of stay only seemed to remind him of the enormity of their task at hand.

"What did you do for the bits about our criminal records?" he inquired then.

"I left it blank."

"We broke into Gringotts, Hermione."

"Nobody's charged us yet."

After they filled out the parchment, the young Ministry employee who had finally introduced himself as Leland, was able to hand them their I. W. Is .

"These are good for six months. If you need to renew them, come in three weeks before expiration and - "

"Oh, we won't be here six months," Hermione laughed.

"Right. Well, if you get stopped or questioned for doing magic ever, this is what you'll need to show."

"Stopped for doing magic?" Ron frowned.

"Like I said, security's been tight. We've got to make sure no one's up to trouble. You know how it is, eh?"

"Right." Ron wondered if that meant they had many people who were up to trouble. He assumed it meant that, just like they'd reached India, Death Eaters had made it here as well. "So are we really at a racetrack?" Ron looked around the dull office. "The man back at River Street said - "

"Yeah, we're over here at Doomben!" Leland laughed. "There's so many new regional offices that we were running out of room back at River Street. So this bit of property at the track opened up and it's really quite private and secure."

"So it's Muggle property?"

"Yeah, it's an old horse barn actually. We charmed it so it still looks like one to Muggles. We're really back here with the ponies though!" Leland sounded so happy about it, Ron wondered whether the young man was a punter and skived off work to go bet on said ponies. "Got an agreement with the provincial authority and everything. They were glad to give us the spot. Said we'd probably keep the whole place more secure than Muggles."

Hermione raised her eyebrows and nodded in acknowledgment. Ron could only assume Muggles prized racing horses as much as wizards did their magical winged kin.

"So anyway, let me help you! Get you some things for your visit!" Leland continued to chatter on excitedly. He exchanged what little magical money they had and then began pulling out books and maps and stacking it all up on the desk in front of them. "Here is a list of designated Apparation points in the city." He handed them a piece of parchment.

"Apparation points?" Ron frowned.

"Yeah, it's a bit of a pain, I know. It's just mainly in the city centre really where there's lots of Muggles," he clarified. "Out here in the suburbs you can come and go as you please. Here - " Leland took out a folded piece of parchment, " – is a list of all the magical establishments in Brisbane in and out of River Street." He pulled out a pocket-sized, but very thick book, and added it to the stack of items. "And this is a list of our laws and regulations that you'll want to follow. Quite similar to England, I'd imagine."

"Is there – er - any way we can get a message back to England?" Ron inquired then.

"Well, the Department for International Communication is usually only reserved for - "

"We just want to let his parents know we've arrived safely," Hermione interjected then and Ron could see Leland had trouble denying Hermione's innocent request.

"I suppose. Give me just a moment." He disappeared behind a door, leaving Ron and Hermione in the room that, for the first time, they could take inventory of. It was quite plain and Ron wondered whether it was disguised so simply on purpose. It didn't look like the inside of a horse barn, which he imagined would be musty and dark, but it certainly didn't look like a magical office either. He didn't see a fireplace and the picture of a steeplechase race on the wall was permanently fixed as the horses soared over the fence.

"Did you want to ask him about helping locate your parents?" Ron whispered to Hermione, who was investigating the office as well.

"They can't do anything."

"Well, you won't know if you don't ask. Maybe they can track people with memory spells. It's worth asking, right?"

"They won't be able to help us."

"Why won't you just ask?" Ron pressed.

"If you come back this way, my boss says you can send a message back to England from his office." Leland appeared and waved them through a back door before they could finish the conversation. The room they entered looked like the office of somebody very important. There were photos on the wall of people shaking hands and lots of plaques and certificates. A tall black wizard in shining green robes stood beside the desk. He cut quite an imposing figure, but he offered Hermione and Ron a warm smile. Ron wondered if he recognized them as well.

"Leland says you need to send a message back to England."


"I'm Dathan Wisecarver, happy to he - " He extended his palm, but Ron's mouth dropped open before he could finish his name.

"Dathan Wisecarver? THE Dathan Wisecarver?" Hermione looked thoroughly confused that Ron knew something she didn't so he explained. "He was a Quidditch LEGEND back in the '80s! Played on the 1990 World Cup Team!" Ron exclaimed. "They played England in the First Round in a - what was it? - six hour match! I remember that bludger you sent to Hawksworth that knocked him out! I thought we were done for!" he chattered on excitedly. Leland looked to be suppressing a grin and Ron could only assume he was a Quidditch fan as well and recalling the same match. Hermione looked unimpressed, but as amused as Dathan Wisecarver by his enthusiasm.

"It's been a long time since anyone brought up that game!" he roared with laughter. " I'd figure you'd be sore about me knocking out Hawksworth."

"We still made the finals," Ron scoffed. "England had a deep team that year. Flitney came through."

"How do you remember all that? You couldn't have been more than ten years old!" Wisecarver shook his head in amazement.

"Ron knows Quidditch better than just about anybody." Hermione sounded oddly proud and Ron beamed at the compliment.

"Well..." He gave a modest shrug.

"Do you play?"

"He's a Keeper," Hermione informed before he could. Once again, her voice seemed filled with pride. Ron wondered if she'd always sounded like that when she spoke about him or if he'd always just ignored it.

"I never was quick enough on a broom to be Keeper," Wisecarver admitted. "You must be quite good."

"He is."

"I'm nothing great."

He and Hermione both spoke at the same time. Ron felt the colour rise in his cheeks at her admiration.

"A national hero and a Quidditch star!" Wisecarver grinned and then stepped back behind the desk, turning the conversation back to business. "Anyway, Leland says you need to get a message back to England?"

"Yes, we had a bit of a rough trip here and just want to let everyone know we have arrived," Hermione explained.

"I'm sorry to hear that. Well, what you'll do is write your message on this." He handed them a piece of very thick fibrous parchment and a quill that he dipped into red ink. "And we can send it along to your minister in this." Wisecarver motioned to a familiar brass goblet in the middle of the desk like the one they'd used in Bulgaria. Ron didn't bother telling him they already knew how it worked, he just smiled and nodded and handed the quill to Hermione.

"Dear Kingsley. Please pass onto the Weasleys that we have arrived safely in Brisbane and are at the local Ministry office where we have been treated kindly," she narrated as she wrote.

"The Ministry employees here have been very helpful in getting us settled." Both Wisecarver and Leland smiled at the words, apparently pleased with themselves at having impressed such important guests. Ron could hardly wrap his head around the fact that the Quidditch star appeared eager to seek his approval. "We have not begun searching for the Grangers yet, but will commence this morning. We are staying at the South Bank Hotel in room 514. All is well. Ron and Hermione."

Ron smiled at the signature. He liked the look of their names together and the sound of her saying them out loud. Ron and Hermione. That's what they were.

"Is there anything else we can help you with?" Wisecarver inquired then. Ron waited for Hermione to speak, to inquire after her parents and he shot her a look urging her to do so. She ignored the imploring look and remained silent, offering little more than a friendly smile and a shake of the head.

"Can you help us find Muggles?" he blurted out, ignoring Hermione's angry glare when he did. "They're dentists," he continued, "somewhere here in Brisbane. Can you help us at all?"

"Find Muggles?" Wisecarver looked perplexed. "Why?"

"They're trying to find her parents," Leland explained.

"You're Muggle born?" his boss looked surprised.

"Is that a problem?" Ron asked brusquely, forgetting this was one of his childhood Quidditch heroes. Hermione moved a hand to his arm.

"My wife is Muggle born," Wisecarver grinned, indicating it was hardly a problem.

"So you can help?"

"To help locate Muggles?"

"They've had a memory charm put on them, would that help?" Ron pressed.

"I'm afraid not."

"See, I told you." Hermione looked embarrassed that the issue had even been raised and tugged on Ron's arm. "Thank you for your help. We'll just be going."

"No, can't you like track people that have had magic done to them? I've heard about that! My Dad works at the Ministry back in England."

"That would be something for the High Ministry. We don't have that capacity at this office and I don't have those kind of contacts."

"But you're Dathan Wisecarver!" Ron appealed to him.

"Now I'm just a Ministry employee. I'm afraid I'm really not that influential."

"Dentists fix teeth, right?" Leland sputtered suddenly. "I think there's a dentist up the road! There's a sign with teeth on it up by the chip shop we go to for lunch sometimes."

"That's right, it's up past Racecourse Road," Wisecarver chimed in.

"Yeah, it's right across from that Muggle apothecary - what do they call it - a pharmacy?" The skinny young man appeared all too eager to help. "And I'm sure we can think of more."

"We have a list, but thank you," Hermione declined from behind a tight-lipped smile. "We really ought to start searching."

"You should stay and watch the races since you're here!" Leland suggested jovially. "First race goes off in an hour. It's great fun." Ron's face lit up at the suggestion of stealing away with Hermione for just an hour more before they began the search for her parents.

"I'm afraid we really can't." Hermione's response immediately dashed his hopes.

"We can stay for one race," he argued.

"If you've never seen a horse race they really are quite fun," Wisecarver agreed. Surely, an endorsement from a man who played the most exciting game on the planet would soften Hermione up, but she still shook her head.

"Come on." He stepped closer to her and lowered his voice to a whisper. "We can spare an hour. It's nearly lunch time anyway." Looking highly unconvinced, she just grabbed his wrist to look at his watch.

"It's not even noon yet," she chided, noting the hands weren't even past eleven.

"Elevenses then."

"You're unbelievable." Her attempt to keep a straight face failed and she just shook her head, purposefully trying to avoid his playful gaze.

"I'm hungry," he whispered back with a purposefully suggestive raise of the eyebrows. They'd only been out of the hotel two hours, but he already longed for the intimacy of the morning again.

"Fine," she relented. Ron thought he could detect a bit of her that longed for the morning too.

"We're going to stay and watch the races," he informed then, turning back to both men, who seemed to be quite cheered by the news.

"Just one race," Hermione interjected, but Ron was quite sure he could get her to stay for more. They had to figure out a course of action anyway. All Hermione had done last night and this morning was compile a list of offices and their addresses. They still had to map each and every one throughout the city. He reckoned this was as fine a place as any to do such tedious work.

"Excellent!" Wisecarver clapped his hands. "I'm sorry we couldn't help find your parents, but if we can help again at all with anything else, getting messages back home and the like, you know where we are."

The words were a comfort to Ron as they said their goodbyes and exited the Ministry office. Though he was happy to once again be alone with Hermione, he was sad to leave both men behind. Having a magical contact in the city, even if they seemed to lack a tremendous amount of power or influence, comforted Ron tremendously. Their task felt less lonely or hopeless somehow now that there were people in the city they knew. Though their surroundings had been foreign, the sheer fact that they were back in the magical world made everything familiar.

Exiting the barn, Ron couldn't help but be on edge. Leland hadn't been lying when he said they were back with the horses. A sleek horse whose coat was a shining blood bay pranced in front of them, tossing his mane about as he pranced along on a short lead shank. The groom holding the rope eyed the two of them warily. Ron immediately seized Hermione's hand.

"Relax," she breathed.

"Do you see the way he's looking at us?"

"I'm sure we look a bit odd back here," she explained. 'I don't think this is really a public area."

"Are we in trouble? Is he going to send for someone?" Ron looked around anxiously. Hermione was right. They were tucked in along rows and rows of open barns. The only people he could see were attached to or tending to a horse.

"Leland said we'd be fine. It's just down this road to get to the main track." He could feel her pace quicken even as she said the words. They didn't encounter many people, but those they did all seemed to look at them the same way, like they didn't belong. The looks set him on edge. He hated when Muggles looked at him like that to begin with. After the last year, he found it was difficult to fight the feeling that there was more to the look than two people who shouldn't be back here. "It's okay," she murmured, rubbing his hand with her thumb then.

"Right." The gentle reminder helped remind him they were safe here. Despite all the increased security precautions Leland had informed them of, Australia was safe. If there were Death Eaters, surely one of the Ministry workers would have told them to be wary. They wouldn't have encouraged them to go to a Muggle event. They were okay.

"You used to ride horses, right?" Ron tried for some conversation as a sleek spindly-legged horse with a shining copper coat and a tiny jockey sitting atop its back clip-clopped past them.

"Not really."

"You did. I saw the picture in your room," he recalled.

"That was just for a few months," Hermione dismissed, but Ron caught her looking at the horse as well with a bit of nostalgia. "My parents." That single word made Ron's hand tighten around hers for an entirely different reason than before. She swallowed loudly, licked her lips and took in a deep breath. "When I was little they - all I did was read books, you see - "

"You don't say?"

"On that ledge - in my room - by the window - do you remember?" As she spoke, Ron could see how just speaking about her parents took her 10,000 miles away to a house on Stuart Avenue.


"I used to just sit up there and read all the time, even on summer holiday. I'd practice magic too, where my parents couldn't see of course. And - and that's all I did."

"What's that got to do with horses?" While he enjoyed the tidbit from her past, which she so rarely shared, he was puzzled by its significance.

"My parents tried to get me to do lots of other stuff - including horse riding - but none of it really interested me."

"I bet you were good at everything though."

"No, I wasn't a very good rider."

"I find that hard to believe," Ron grinned.

"I really wasn't," she insisted.

"There was a ribbon in that picture." Ron recalled the picture of Hermione sitting atop a fat grey pony.

"It was a fifth place ribbon," she admitted.

"That's still good."

"There were only six people in the class, Ron," she admitted.

"Better than I could do, I'd wager." He swung their joined hands in front of them happily, trying to bring back the morning. She smiled back at him, but it came less easily than it had two hours ago. "Closest I've come to horse riding is that thestral back fifth year and a camel when I was twelve and I nearly fell off both of them."

He chattered on about Egypt then and about anything to steer the conversation from Hermione's parents. He hated that it still made him so uncomfortable. Perhaps if she could talk about them without her eyes getting all glassy, he wouldn't always want to change the subject. Needless to say, he was grateful when they finally arrived at what seemed to be the main track.

It was a perplexing assortment of tents and terraces, benches and patios. Hermione appeared as confused by it all as he was and Ron was secretly pleased this was new to her as well. This whole trip had been about navigating the unfamiliar together and he loved how much closer it seemed to have them. The track wasn't very crowded on a weekday, but there were enough people around to make even Hermione stick close to him in the unfamiliar surrounding.

"Where do you want to go?" Ron looked around at the many signs directing them to different terraces and bars and suites. Fresh air or indoor seating, mounting yard or track view, sandwiches or drinks. Ron hoped the few galleons he had exchanged for Australian dollars would be enough to gain them admittance. He wondered if this could qualify as a date.

"Let's go somewhere where we can spread out the map and plan out the day." Hermione's curt reply made clear this wouldn't be a date, not even when he bought her a fizzy drink from a vendor and they settled onto a bench. She pulled the maps and notebook out almost immediately, before Ron could even inquire if she wanted anything to eat. He could feel the morning slipping away.

"You take this and I'll read you the names of the streets I have written down. You read me the coordinates and I can look it up and see which are on this side of the river."

"Sure," Ron complied.

"Just read the letter and number to me." She shuffled through her papers, pulling out the list of dentists she'd put together last night on the bed. Thinking about last night and the bed, Ron edged closer to her and moved a hand to her thigh. She did little more than give a smile as she began rattling of street names.

"Cartwright Street."


"Southgate Avenue."


And so the morning continued on. A parade of horses pranced onto the turf, but Hermione paid them little mind. She didn't relent until she had circled twenty-five practices in a 3 mile radius. Though it still looked to be barely scratching the surface of the expansive city, Ron thought it looked like an awful lot of land to cover. This is what they were here for, he reminded himself. This was the whole purpose of this trip. It wasn't about shared hotel rooms or wrestling on a bed or touching each other beneath the sheets. It was about finding her parents. And he did want to find them. He wanted Hermione to be complete again. But he knew there was also so much more he wanted from Australia than just locating her parents. It wasn't just about getting a shag or being away from the Burrow. He needed this, being here with her and figuring things out. He wanted to be complete too and as he looked to Hermione, who was now leaning over the map so far her nose was practically touching the paper, he instinctively knew he wouldn't feel complete until she was.

He wrapped an arm around her and pressed his lips to the side of her head, but she was so focused on locating the nearest Apparition point she hardly stirred. He kept his arm around her and leaned over the map to join the search.

"We'll find them."


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 31 of 45

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