A/N: Hey team! I am so excited about this new fic! I'm really indulging my penchant for urban fantasy and paranormal romance type novels in my own reading choices (nerd alert), but I will do my best to keep one foot firmly in the HP world we all know and love.
This is a no-Voldie magic AU, in which Ron and Hermione went to different secondary schools and met at Uni. Most of the fic will take place when they're older 30-somethings, although there's a lot of Uni flashback potential. The rules of the world and magic are a bit different, but I'm optimistic y'all will be able to pick it up as we go.
I had the best intentions of writing a backlog so I could keep a somewhat regular posting schedule (as I notoriously take weeks between chapters)…but I'll be honest here, I have a bit of a phoenix & flame situation. I think having a published WIP helps motivate me to write, so I haven't actually managed to create said backlog. I, therefore, cannot guarantee any kind of posting schedule, but I can guarantee that I have a million ideas and I'm very excited about this story, so it won't be abandoned!
Shout out to my normal beta, cheesyficwriter, but also my new beta, accio_broom, who I somehow tricked into helping me out with this fic! Thank you for the cheering, corrections, and character insights. You're both the best. :D
Without further ado, I present The Faith of an Auror.
Hermione's feet were aching and her body was covered in a light layer of sweat. The smell of stale beer hung in the air, mixing with the faint thrumming of a steady bass, but she couldn't remember ever having more fun. She took a pull of Unicorn's Blood- a silver tequila- straight from the bottle and handed it to her fellow culprit. The alcohol warmed her from within, buzzing underneath her skin.
"Shh!" Ginny swatted at her arm and grinned, dissolving into a fit of giggles as she accepted the drink. "They're going to hear us."
She took a healthy swig and passed it back.
"Right, hush then," Hermione hissed, wiping tears from her eyes.
The girls crouched behind a large couch. Its upholstery was frayed from use, the deep brown color faded and stained. They continued to make shushing noises and pass the bottle between them until two silhouettes entered the dim room, debating.
"Why would they be down here?" one of them asked, and Ginny pinched Hermione's arm, covering her mouth to stifle her laughter.
"I dunno," the second one answered. "I thought I saw them walk this way."
"Good enough for me." He slapped at his pockets. "Do you have your wand? We need light."
"Yeah, got it somewhere I think, just a mo'."
Hermione and Ginny exchanged anticipative glances and, eyes alight with mischief, Ginny held up three fingers, counting them down until only her fist remained.
As if on cue, the lights flicked on, triggering the release of a large bubble of water, magically suspended near the ceiling. The girls stood from behind their hiding spot, and Hermione made eye contact with one of the two newcomers in the space of a fraction of a heartbeat, grinning. His blue eyes widened with panic, then-
The water cascaded over the unsuspecting men, drenching them from head to toe. They sputtered, shocked and indignant as Ginny and Hermione roared with laughter.
"Right." Harry wiped his glasses and shook his head like a dog, sending water droplets flying around him. "You'll pay for that." He lept deftly over the old couch and swept Ginny into his arms. She squealed as his wet clothes squeezed water onto her, giggling and trying to squirm from his grasp. "Return the favor, Ron," he shouted, as though gallantly calling his troops to battle.
Hermione wheeled about, finding that Ron was standing within arm's distance. He ran his fingers through his long hair, the water holding it slicked back from his pale, freckled face. She bit her lip, backing away as he approached her with slow steps. His Hogwarts University t-shirt, soaked through, clung tantalizingly to his chest, and when she met his evil smile, her stomach lurched in an excited sort of way. She drank more tequila, the burn of it numbing her lips. Water dripped off his clothing and ruddy skin as he stalked towards her.
"Thought you'd have a bit of fun?"
"It's normal on graduation night, I'm told." She gulped, stumbling as she hit a wall, backed quite literally against it. She offered him the bottle and he drank the remains, tossing it harmlessly behind him onto the wet carpet.
"Hermione Granger," he tutted, placing his arms on either side of her head. "Making a mess in her uni-sanctioned living space. I never thought I'd live to see the day."
His eyes faded to a darker shade when he was aroused, though she could still discern the characteristic grey starbursts.
"Well you know," she whispered. "It's not that hard to clean really. Am I a witch or not?"
Her head was just the right amount of dizzy with alcohol, the effects of which made her feel bolder and more relaxed. Her hands, unbidden, clenched handfuls of his t-shirt and her fingers grazed the skin above his jeans.
"Have I told you that you look amazing tonight?" He moved one hand so his fingers traced a pattern on her hip, gaze dropping to her lips. Hermione glanced at the short bodycon dress and heels that she wore, the liquid courage making her unashamed of the choice. She'd been willingly coerced into the outfit by Ginny as they prepared for her last ever university party, so it'd seemed right to dress the part.
Her smile felt lazy, though she hoped it looked more flirty, as she gazed up at him, sliding her hand under his shirt so her palm rested, skin to skin, against his chest. "Another graduation tradition, I'm afraid."
"I'm beginning to like graduation night."
He moved his hand so his large fingers were splayed across her lower back, then pulled her hips towards his in a sudden motion, grinning at the small gasp that escaped her. Her breathing hitched as his nose rubbed against hers, and, unable to play this game any longer, she stood on her tiptoes and crashed her lips to his, snogging him greedily. She vaguely registered that the front of her dress was absorbing the water from his clothes, choosing instead to focus on how he tasted of whiskey, and when he grabbed her bum, a shiver of pleasure surged through her.
"Oi!" A shout broke their kiss apart, their limbs tangled as they panted for air.
"Yes, Harry?" Ron asked in a strangled, would-be-polite voice.
"It's gross." The bluntness of the statement made Hermione snort and, laughing, she peeked over Ron's shoulder to find Ginny wagging her eyebrows. "Also boring. C'mon, let's go back to the party."
"We're down here to begin with because of you," Ron pointed out, but he clasped his hand in Hermione's and followed the others up the stairs. The music grew louder as they climbed, hitting Hermione with full force when Harry opened the door at the top. A cheer of fellow party-goers met the group when they filed into the packed living room, giving high fives and yelling to be heard over the bass. People were dancing in the dimly lit den, purple lights flashing in time with the music.
Hermione smiled, waved, and chatted happily with her classmates during the slow pilgrimage, ignoring the bittersweet feeling in the pit of her stomach. Hogwarts University was the only all-magical university in Europe, and as such the students that attended were from various countries in the region. Most left to go home after graduation, taking jobs near their families and friends. She'd loved her time at HU, and now that they were graduating, she wasn't likely to see many of these people again.
Especially given the job she'd chosen to accept.
She glanced sidelong at Ron and blinked her eyes rapidly, pushing the unpleasant thought away as she squeezed his hand. Following Harry and Ginny, they wound their way to the kitchen, which although still packed with people, was much less loud.
Ron poured four solo cups of beer from a keg and they settled into a corner, laughing and drinking as the early morning hours slipped away. The party cleared out in trickles and cascades. With every person that left, Hermione's heart sank, the moments that she'd been stoutly ignoring looming ever closer.
Eventually, it was just the four of them, sitting at the fold-out card table in the quiet kitchen of the rickety rental house. Hermione's roommates (three other students in her major) had already left for the end of term. Since most of the furniture was gone, every small creak of the house seemed to echo through the empty rooms, drawing even more attention to the void.
"I think it's time, Hermione," Ginny said, reaching across the table to grasp her hand. Her smile was small.
"Right." She stood, feeling numb. She'd love to blame the copious alcohol she'd consumed, but she knew that was a lie. They moved into the living room, loitering by the door as Hermione hugged Harry and Ginny.
"It's not goodbye." Harry held Hermione at arm's length and surveyed her, brows furrowed. "I'll see you at the Ministry next year, right? Just because we're in different departments doesn't mean we can't socialize."
"And I'll still text you all the time," Ginny assured her, wrapping an arm around her waist. "We're not going anywhere."
"I know," Hermione lied, pushing away a tear and pulling them into a group hug. "It's just the end of our time at school! You know how much I love school." She forced a laugh. "I'm moving tomorrow, and I'll miss it. End of an era."
They accepted her story, returning her hug and leaving with more promises of calling soon, shooting sad glances and waves over their shoulders as they walked down the dark, damp street towards Ginny's flat.
Shutting the front door, she leant her forehead against it and forced a deep breath. One more to go.
Ron was standing behind her when she turned, wearing a sheepish expression as he massaged his wrist, which she remembered was sore from a Quidditch friendly he'd played last week.
"Want some ice or something for that?"
"Nah." His grin didn't quite reach his eyes. They stood, several metres apart, holding an entire conversation without speaking. The depth of emotion on his face was written as plainly as the words on the pages of her favorite books.
"I hope it's okay that I stayed."
"Of course." She gestured between them. "I know this, over the years...it's been…"
"Up and down?" he supplied with a weak smile.
She nodded, gulping. "But...I know we're not official or anything, but well, I…" Tears fell down her cheeks, which she was helpless to combat. Words, her beloved vocabulary of bombastic words, failed her completely.
Instead, she acted on an impulse to do and not think.
She ran to close the distance between them, throwing herself into Ron's arms and wrapping her legs around his waist as their lips met in fervent, desperate kisses. They maneuvered into the kitchen, stumbling against the doorframe along the way. When he set her roughly on the wobbling card table, she pulled him closer to herself, tangling her fingers in his orange locks. She lost track of how long they stayed there, attempting to devour each other.
Unable to wait any longer, Hermione broke away from him, panting as she peeled her dress over her head and dropped it onto the sticky linoleum floor.
Merlin, the way he looked at her.
With some impatience, she fumbled with his belt buckle, planting kisses up and down his neck. Moaning, he helped her push his jeans and pants to his ankles.
"Mione," he mumbled, breaking her kisses. His arousal throbbed against her entrance and she sighed, delighting in the feel of his perfect bum in her hands. He cupped her face, thumbs moving across her cheeks, drawing her attention to the tears that still fell from her eyes in traitorous streaks.
"Hermione," he said again, his voice breaking. "Why do I get the feeling you're trying to say goodbye?"
Those eyes, grey starbursts that faded to a penetrating blue, surveyed her not with suspicion, as she felt she deserved, but compassion. Her crying redoubled and, being still unable to verbally express why, she pulled him in for another hungry snog.
It wasn't long before she realized that not all of the tears were hers.
She tasted the salt in their fervent kisses, felt the desperation and intense longing in his touches, and tried to convince herself that their impending separation was for the best. She wanted one last night. A memory she could take with her, to help her remember this.
He carried her to the air mattress she'd set up in her old bedroom, laying her down and holding himself on top of her. Her heart hammered with something akin to yearning as he entered her for the last time, their bodies fitting with practiced perfection. As her pleasure mounted in a slow, sensual build-up, she told herself that it was all for the best.
When they were finished, laying in a tangle of sweaty, shaking limbs, she pushed the pain in her heart aside, running her fingers through his beautiful, fiery locks until he fell asleep.
TEN YEARS LATER
Without looking away from the book she held open in her left hand, Hermione changed into a cozy, cable-knit jumper and walked to the kitchen to fill a kettle. Having just gotten home from a long working day, she was planning to indulge in a cuppa before turning on mindless Muggle television and diving into her evening workload.
Her two-bedroom flat was awash with the natural light only an end unit can afford, and she'd styled it with white furniture of expensive taste. She kept it, as a general rule, neat and orderly, though it wasn't difficult to clean up after one person, and she never had company over.
She was about to flick her wand to ignite the burner on the stove when a knock echoed through the flat. Frowning, she lowered her book, glancing towards the small front room. Hermione had a normal Wednesday routine, and it most certainly did not involve anyone knocking on her door.
She might have convinced herself that she'd imagined it, but then it happened again. The rapping filled her flat with an unruly persistence. Pursing her lips, she rose from the table, leaving her book abandoned as she crossed her flat on silent, sock-clad feet. She peered through the peephole, finding an unfamiliar man standing on the doorstep to her garden-style flat entrance.
She tucked her wand into her back pocket and opened the door with a forced smile. "Can I help you?"
The man wore reflective aviators and sported a full, wiry, well-groomed beard. His red hair was cropped short, fading into his sideburns, though some length persisted on the top, styled to look effortlessly windswept. He was tall- really tall- and though not exactly broad, lean muscles accentuated his form so that he still cut an imposing figure. His t-shirt, an odd choice considering the chill of the autumn air, exposed full sleeves of colorful tattoos on both his muscular forearms. The designs wound hypnotically over his skin, disappearing under the fabric of his shirt.
He was fit. Beyond fit. Why would a man like this be on her doorstep?
The man's jaw hung open for several seconds as they appraised each other. Hermione, who'd been caught off guard, a feeling which she didn't particularly enjoy, cleared her throat with some impatience and attempted to regain control of the situation. "Can I help you?" She repeated.
"Hermione?" He shook his head, as though to clear it. "Hermione Granger?"
She furrowed her brow, not liking the implication of a stranger knowing her name. She reached her hand into her back pocket. "Who are you?"
The man pulled his sunglasses off, meeting her questioning gaze with piercing blue eyes. Eyes the color of the sky on a perfect summer day. Eyes that, despite the presence of a few unfamiliar wrinkles around them, never could do anything to hide their emotion.
Eyes punctuated with grey starbursts.
She raised a shaking hand to her chest, taking an unconscious step back. "Ron?" She raked over the man's figure, heart hammering. Now that she saw it, she couldn't undo it.
It was Ron.
He was older, somehow taller, fitter, bearded, tattooed, better dressed even, but there was no doubting it. After ten years of no contact, Ron Weasley had shown up on her doorstep.
"Why are you?" It wasn't a full sentence, but she could manage no more.
"I can't stop thinking about you." He seemed to blurt out the words. "When you left, my world became muted. Nothing feels or tastes or looks the same anymore. I want you back."
Whatever she'd been expecting Ron to say, this wasn't it. Hermione's stomach seemed to plunge over the side of a cliff, and she was left watching it bounce off every edge it could find on its way down.
"I know this is crazy, and we haven't seen each other in ages." Those eyes that she used to be able to read so easily were as expressive as she remembered, but she wasn't sure she understood what they were trying to tell her now. "We belong together, and all I'm asking is for a chance to prove it to you. I love you, Hermione."
Hermione had never encountered a problem she couldn't solve, but as she stared at Ron Weasley, her shock in seeing him, let alone in hearing him confess his love for her, paralyzed her. She had no idea what to do.
They couldn't go on standing on the patio of a Muggle apartment complex though, so she moved aside and jerked her head. "Why don't you come in?"
She saw the ghost of a smirk as he stepped past her and when she turned from shutting the door behind him, found that he was blocking the hall. "Thanks for that," he grinned. "Otherwise, this would have been really awkward."
"Yeah, Ron," she started, still unsure of how to proceed. "Thanks for coming all this way, but-"
"Oh no, you misunderstand me," Ron interrupted, pulling handcuffs from where they'd been concealed on his belt loop. "Hermione Granger, you are under arrest."
Faster than she could blink, he'd gripped her shoulder and turned her around, fastening her hands behind her back. He slipped the wand from her pocket as she shrieked, murmuring in a would-be-comforting way. "There, there, love. I'll just keep track of this for you."
"What the hell, Ron?" She shouted, trying vainly to kick and squirm, anything to get out of his grasp. His grip was relentless; he held her pinned so she was faced away from him.
"Forget I was an Auror, did you?" He chuckled. "Here, let's get your shoes on." She felt the ankle boots she'd left in the hall appear on her feet.
"Will you at least enlighten me as to why I'm being arrested?" She usually hated when her voice got so shrill, though at the moment felt it quite justified.
"Big lapse in security in the Department of Mysteries," he grunted, his voice taking a hard tone in saying the name of her place of employment. "The higher-ups seem to think you're to blame."
"That's preposterous." Hermione was nearly spitting with panic and anger. "Ron, that's absolutely mental." Her mind was spinning, trying to understand.
"Well, not my fucking call is it, love? I was told to bring you in, so I am. Now, are you ready?"
She was so lost in thought, focused on what she knew about her Department, that she'd missed Ron's question. It was only when he drew her tighter to his body and began the telltale spin on his heel that she realized what was happening.
"No!" She shrieked. "We shouldn't appar-"
With a pop, they disappeared, and the light-washed flat settled into a cozy silence. There was no evidence that anyone had been there that day, except for two oddities on the otherwise spotless kitchen counter: a kettle of cold water and an open book.