Chapter Thirty-Eight: Tuesday Morning

The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic, and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.

Beta credit: bunnyhops and CoquetteKitten.

 

 

Eventually, Hermione dragged her cot closer to their invisible wall and lay down while they talked. “What’s going to happen to Ron?”

 

Even in infirmary-issue pyjamas, Lucius managed to look regal as he regarded her from his wingback chair.  “I cannot find it within myself to care.”

 

“Lucius!”

 

He leaned his elbows on the arms of the chair and steepled his fingers against his chin. “He has done this to himself, pet. My concern extends only as far as his family; I would never wish ill on Molly and Arthur.”

 

“Will he recover soon?”

 

Lucius looked slightly irritated. “Final stage VMV requires lengthy treatment. Mr. Weasley will most likely take up residence in the fourth floor long-term ward.”

 

“But he will eventually recover?”

 

That was apparently the wrong question. He positively glowered at her. “And why do you take such an interest in the recovery of this boy?”

 

He’s still insecure, although why I have no idea. Ron’s an oozing, evil mess.   Although I suppose his first Wife had similar taste . . . Realizing her mistake, Hermione backpedaled quickly. “I only wondered what his symptoms and treatment would be!”

 

He looked slightly appeased, and as he talked he didn’t try to hide his satisfaction in Ron’s plight. “Very well. Mr. Weasley will be in isolation until the pustules covering his skin stop erupting. When the last one has popped, and his skin has scarred over grotesquely, he will be allowed visitors. Not that anyone would choose to spend time with such a patient – his thoughts will continue on in their fixations, his libido will remain elevated, and he will most likely become violent.”

 

“That’s awful! Poor Ron!” Oops. Probably shouldn’t have said that. “What I mean is, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!”

 

Lucius narrowed his eyes and continued. His beautiful voice traced each word lovingly, darkly. “He may or may not regain full use of his faculties. If he does not, he will most likely be moved to the Janus Thickey Ward when he is no longer able to spread the disease through simple contact. Restraining charms will be placed on him to prevent harm to the other patients and staff, and he will be fitted with a magical device that warns of his deteriorated mental condition. This is for the unlikely event that he should escape from care.”

 

“And if he does make a full mental recovery?”

 

“I eagerly look forward to prosecuting him to the fullest extent of the law. He will be sent to Azkaban for kidnapping and willfully spreading a harmful contagion, and when he is released, I will arrange for him to live the remainder of his life in a private, high-security institution.”

 

“And if he’s found not guilty and allowed to go free?”

 

“He won’t be, I assure you.”

 

“But if he is?” She pressed, somehow already knowing the answer.

 

“He will be given the choice between a relatively comfortable life in the institution I mentioned, or a brief struggle with a Crabbe or Goyle.”

 

Lucius is not a man to be crossed. He’s honorable – yes-– but he’s also dangerous. Just not to me.

 

“That isn’t how Gryffindors do things.”

 

Lucius looked almost amused. “No.”

 

“But he didn’t mean for any of this to happen! It was a horrible accident – a mistake!”

 

“There was no mistake, no accident. Let us imagine the scenario. For him to have contracted this bug, he would have to have knowingly sought out the lowest of whorehouses in Knockturn Alley – a place avoided by all but the most desperate of men. He would have ignored the warning feeling in the pit of his stomach as he entered, the stench of the place, the filth of the room, and the desperation of the woman herself. And for what – at most a few hours of questionable pleasure? Mr. Weasley has willfully chosen each of his poor decisions: he chose not to cast his stake with his brothers. He chose to treat you with callous disregard. He chose to dally with a prostitute. You will not pity such a man, Hermione. I forbid it.”

 

“You cannot forbid me my own feelings, Lucius! But you’re right; it’s obvious he worked hard to do this to himself. He doesn’t deserve pity.” She sagged against her cot tiredly, glancing at her wizard. “The Ron I knew as my friend has been gone a long time. Still, I wouldn’t wish his future on anyone.”

 

“For touching my bespoken one it is the least he deserves. His frame of mind at the time is immaterial.” His voice shook with quiet fury, his nostrils were flared, and his lips were pressed into a hard line. “I beg you, leave me to myself. I find I cannot continue this conversation.”

 

Hermione complied, and a deep quiet settled over them until the next scan. Sleep evaded her as she pondered Lucius’ words. He’d clearly spent some time during the night charting out the variable outcomes of the situation, and what he’d said (apart from the reference to assassins) made sense. This in itself caused her brain to whirr in activity.

 

She’d always characterized Slytherins as operating in the grey areas where Gryffindors didn’t deign to go, and yet Lucius’ words spoke of a black-and-white view of the world — right versus wrong, wrong based on personal choice, and the ensuing retribution for said choices. They were . . . very much in keeping with the philosophy of her chosen house.

 

The only part she could find fault with was Lucius’ allusion to the very permanent consequences if Ron did not take his first offer, although a small part of her argued they were mitigated under the circumstances. It was the same small part that the Sorting Hat had identified all those years ago, when she hadn’t been as comfortable with that part of herself. The Hat was right – I could have been sorted differently. Draco and I’d have gotten to know each other years ago, I’d have learned more pure-blood traditions in Slytherin, and the Weasleys — and Ron — might never have gotten involved. She shook her head to clear it. Then again, I’d never have gotten to know Harry, never helped him win the war. Everything turned out as it was meant to be.

 

Her musing was cut short by the arrival of the matron, who looked dead on her feet. She was alone this time. After running Hermione’s second-to-last set of scans, Madam Pomfrey collapsed at the foot of Hermione’s cot in uncharacteristic discomposure. “Never in all my time at this school have we had such an incident. I just got back from speaking with the Headmaster, and he has decided to send all unaffected students home at once.”

 

Hermione peeked at Lucius, who was regarding the matron with one eyebrow raised in interest.  “How many students will need to be kept under the quarantine?” she asked.

 

Madam Pomfrey shook her head in frustration. “The spread pattern is baffling. One would think the bug would be found primarily amongst upper classmen, specifically Gryffindors and Quidditch players. However, the St. Mungo’s team has just found a large pocket of Gryffindor first years that have been recently exposed!”

 

Oh, Merlin! That’s completely my fault. “Ron sat with the first years at lunch today — yesterday, I guess. He wasn’t supposed to be near me, so Ginny sent him to the far end of the lunch table.”

 

“Well, it’s a good thing the first stage is so easy to cure. If only Mr. Weasley had come to me right away — but I’m sure he knew he’d have to explain where he’d been.”

 

Hermione was struck by a stray thought. “Madam Pomfrey, what about Pansy Parkinson? What’s happened to her?”

 

“I don’t ordinarily discuss patients outside of professional conversation, but in this case . . .” here she ducked her head toward Hermione and continued in a lower voice, “Miss Parkinson was diagnosed with stage two and moved to St. Mungo’s along with Mr. Weasley.”

 

Hermione voiced a concern that had been troubling her all night. She’d held it back, knowing it couldn’t be a priority for anyone, but now the words just tumbled out. “She has my wand. Will I get it back, do you think?”

 

The matron shrugged apologetically. “You’ll have to contact St. Mungo’s, dear. I’m afraid it’s not a priority right now.”

 

She nodded in comprehension, chewing on the corner of her lip in silence. She hadn’t needed it yet, but it felt as though she were missing a limb. She decided not to dwell on it.

 

“Have the rest of the Weasleys been told? Ron was home last week for a family meeting!”

 

“They were informed right away. I’m sure they’re at St, Mungo’s now.”

 

The implications of Ron’s stupidity just continued to multiply. Maybe Lucius’ worst-case solution isn’t so awful after all . . .

 

Lucius remained silent throughout Madam Pomfrey’s visit. She whispered to Hermione, “I see he’s in a mood. Again.”

 

Hermione scrunched her face apologetically. “I might have shown sympathy for Ron.”

 

“That would do it. He’s mercurial on a good day, and the past twelve hours would test a saint. Still, at least he’s learned to control his temper. The day he learned that should be observed as holy.”

 

“I can hear you, Poppy.” How does he manage to make such a menacing tone sound so sexy? I like dangerous men. Maybe there’s something wrong with me . . .

 

Madam Pomfrey’s recent bravery around Lucius vanished, and as soon as Hermione had received her dose cups of potions, she fled.

 

Hermione swallowed down the prophylactic treatment, disappointed again that no trace of the former, pleasant side effect was detectable. “Only two scans left for me, only one for you. Will you leave after that?”

 

“I intend to put things in order and then take you with me, pet.”

 

She smothered her delighted smile into her pillow, nestling down into it with as much contentment as was possible under the circumstances. Her brain whirred away. The past few days replayed in her mind’s eye and she flopped onto her back, groaning with a sudden, harsh irritation for her own stupidity. I was worse than Ron; at least he had an excuse!

 

“Is there something you’d like to share, pet?”

 

“To think, I wasted two days on a faulty Arithmantic equation when I could have just listened to classroom gossip and a few Ravenclaws!”

 

“What on earth are you talking about?”

 

“I wanted to prove to you that Ron was harmless, and so I started calculations-”

 

He interrupted her brusquely. “You ran Arithmantic equations with a predetermined outcome in mind?”

 

“Yes,” she answered in a small voice. It was becoming very obvious that her wizards were every bit as intelligent as she was. “I was wrong. But, Lucius I was so sure that if I just talked to him, he’d . . .” she trailed off.

 

Lucius’s eyes were positively icy. “That wizard has been admitted to St. Mungo’s for a stay of indeterminate length as we speak, after which he may well be brought to a Ministry trial. He took you against your will! Does that sound like the sort of man who would listen? How could you have so stubbornly refused to admit you were wrong, Hermione? You have been pig-headed, and foolhardy . . . ”

 

He was quiet for a long time, and eventually she looked up, expecting to see him looking at her in angry judgment. Instead he was smiling, albeit in a vexed way. “You’re going to make it up to me. You will spend the rest of our engagement locked in a tower of my own choosing. I’ve had an alternate chaperone on retainer since our binding. As soon as I’m released, she will be sent for. And she won’t be nearly as lackadaisical as Mr. Potter.”

 

Hermione’s heart sank. A tower. Of his choosing. No doubt it would be high, windowless, and accessible only by magic.

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