"Ginny! Take this blindfold off of me! You know I hate surprises," growled Hermione. Nothing she tried was working on whatever Sticking charm the red-haired witch used to place the silken band over her eyes and it was doing a number on her already frazzled nerves. She hated not being in control, it reminded her too much of being at the mercy of Bellatrix during the war.
"It's okay, Hermione," soothed Luna, putting a calming hand on her friend's arm, "Ginny won't let anything hurt you, will you Ginny?"
"Of course, not!" huffed the other witch, "We can't have the bride-to-be showing up at the wedding all bruised and scraped up...although, your husband-to-be could play the seductive 'mediwizard' and 'kiss everything better' for his patient," she said, waggling her eyebrows and making Luna giggle.
Hermione couldn't see the see the gesture but, her cheeks burned a fiery red just the same. She and Ronald had never taken their physical relationship past kissing and the images that Ginny's words brought to mind just made Hermione even more discomfited about the wedding night. And, Molly's 'motherly talk' the day before about what to expect made things worse. She wasn't sure she'd ever be able to look Mr. Weasley in the face again without wanting to die from embarrassment.
But, Hermione was determined to fight through her apprehensions. This was how it was supposed to be, wasn't it? A slight case of cold feet was normal, it was expected. Only, there was a niggling thought at the back of her mind that just wouldn't leave, that insisted there was something important she was missing.
"Explain to me why are we going to this new club, Lucius?" growled Severus, "You know I hate crowds and what passes for music in these types of places."
"We're patronizing this particular establishment because it is one of Draco's ventures and it's doing quite well," replied Lucius, pleased that his son was successfully building a life for himself after the war, "Besides, Narcissa informed me that if I didn't get you out of the East Wing of the Manor and 'cheer you up' she was going to hex your entire wardrobe in colors of the rainbow. And, trust me, she would do it, too, just to see the look on your face."
Snape shuddered at the mere prospect. He'd known Narcissa and Lucius since they were students at Hogwarts, although, they were sixth years when he first arrived. And, he knew if Cissa was exasperated enough, she would most certainly follow through with that spell. Clearing his throat, Severus sighed, "Well, then, let's not tempt fate. Lead the way, Lucius."
Malfoy couldn't help but smirk at his friend. He knew the threat of a technicolor wardrobe would motivate the dour potions master to vacate his rooms at the Manor for a rare evening on-the-town but, he had no idea just how fortuitous this night would be for his semi-reclusive friend.
"Come on Ron!," yelled the twins, "Or you'll be late for your own stag night!"
"I'll be down in just a minute," the youngest male Weasley called back, "I just have one thing I have to do before we go."
"Honestly, what can he be doing up there?" asked Harry, "Molly's already taken care of all the important wedding arrangements, all Ron has to do is show up on time."
"Knowing our little brother," said Fred. "And, we do," smirked George. "He's been thinking about the wedding night, again, and has to...'take care of things'..." stated Fred, using air quotes. "...before he can be seen in public without being an embarrassment to us all," chuckled George as he finished his brother's sentence.
Harry shuddered, not wanting those thoughts dancing through his head for the rest of the night. It was bad enough that Ron had asked his adopted sister to marry him, more surprising that Hermione accepted...he didn't want to think what they would get up to after the ceremony.
Upstairs, Ron was looking at his reflection in the bathroom mirror with a grin that bordered on maniacal. "Just one more day and she'll be mine forever."
"We're here!" declared Ginny as she removed the blindfold from Hermione's face with a flourish, "Welcome to your hen night!"
Hermione blinked her eyes to help her focus and saw that they were in front of a busy nightclub. But, it wasn't just any old club, it was Draco Malfoy's 'Enchantment'. And it was, apparently, THE place to be for exciting nightlife in Wizarding London according to The Daily Prophet's business section.
"Merlin! Ginny, how did you manage this, it's supposed to be really exclusive," said Hermione, "Please tell me you didn't hock your engagement ring to afford this place."
"No, just cashed in on a long overdue favor from Malfoy Jr.," stated the younger witch, "He seemed rather happy to be rid of a life-debt for such a trifle."
"Gee, thanks, Gin," pouted Hermione, "You know just how to make a girl feel really special."
"Oh, don't be like that 'Mione," smirked Ginny, "This will be so worth it...trust me....besides, the Ferret still owes me three more favors before he'll be rid of me."
Hermione frowned. She knew her best female friends were trying to cheer her up by getting her out of her flat but, all she really wanted to do tonight was curl up on her sofa with the latest Potions Quarterly with her beloved familiar, Crookshanks, snuggled up on her feet. That setting was soothing and reassuring, just what she needed to settle her anxieties about tomorrow...this noisy place was simply too far outside her comfort zone.
Hermione was still looking for a polite way to get out of this ridiculous 'Last Hoorah' tradition when Luna grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the club entrance.
Leaning in so that her friend could hear her over the pulse-pounding music spilling out from inside the club, the blonde witch said, "Don't worry, Hermione. Things will work out for the best, you'll see."
Before Hermione could ask Luna what she meant, they were standing at the doorway waiting for their turn to go inside.
The two burly guards dressed in black-on-black outfits, standing on either side of the heavy wooden door, wand scanned the three woman before allowing them through. Hermione knew from Ginny that Draco took everyone's safety to heart and employed the latest security techniques...checks at the entryway for banned substances, single file admittance, and the propriety last step inspired by the Goblin Nation's Thieves' Downfall elixir. Only, instead of having the mixture poured over your head, like at Gringott's, patrons simply walked through a very fine mist.
Glamours and Polyjuice were immediately disrupted and if a person was under the influence of any potion or spells, they were pulled aside and given an antidote, had a counter-curse cast over them or floo'd straight to St. Mungo's for treatment with an Auror escort. Since the grand opening three months ago, there had been twenty cases of underage students trying to sneak in Polyjuiced as an older relative and ten instances of people under the sway of Amortentia or other forms of love potions. The latter led to the arrest and convictions of jealous ex-partners looking to steal an individual away from their current love interest and gold-diggers attempting to snag a rich older wizard or witch.
And, tonight one more person was in for a nasty surprise.
"Merlin! Uncle Severus, who did this to you?" asked Draco as he looked at the wizard who was currently lit up like a Christmas tree. Snape and Malfoy Sr. had arrived at the 'Enchantment' five minutes ago and as soon as the raven-haired wizard walked through the security mist his skin turned a brilliant blue and green...indicators that he had been subjected to an, as yet, unknown spell or spells and it had been on him for some time...at least six months according to a preliminary scan.
"Seeing as this is the first time I've been made aware of this situation, I haven't a clue, Draco," hissed the agitated wizard as he was led to a private room where the club's on-call curse-breaker was waiting to assess and treat him.
"I'll go with him so he doesn't hex your staff," stated Lucius as he anxiously followed his glowing friend through the secured corridor. ('There is going to be Hell to pay once I find out who did this to Severus...no wonder he's been so sullen and withdrawn...well, more-so than usual.')
No sooner had Snape and Malfoy disappeared into the warded chamber, than a second alarm sounded at the misting station.
"Boss! We've got another one! Looks like there might be the some of the same curses involved, too," snarled the guard that monitored patrons as they emerged from the mist and, was currently leading a flabbergasted, and luminescent, Hermione towards the blonde wizard.
"What's going on, Malfoy?" demanded Hermione when she saw the wizard's familiar face, "Who else has been affected? What exactly is this spell? Is there a counter to it? Where...?"
Draco shook his head, holding up a hand to stop her from asking another question. "Come with me, Granger and we'll try and get you sorted, first." ('Damn! The Weaslette was right.')
With her permission, Draco gently took Hermione by the elbow and hurriedly led the flustered witch down the hall to the same room where his godfather was being treated.
When Draco pulled Hermione through the rooms privacy wards, they were met by a deep, angry voice, "What is SHE doing here?" snarled the wizard in black. "She made it perfectly clear what she thought of me the last time we saw one another. How did she put it? Ah, yes....I was a foul, greasy, Dungeon Bat and if we ever crossed paths again she'd have me thrown into Azkaban for molesting her while she was a student!"
"Excuse me!," snapped the equally irritated witch, "But, I don't even know who you are....why would I say such horrible things to someone I've never even met until now?"
Well, that certainly raised quite a few eyebrows from the men in the room. "What do you mean, you don't know who I am? I was your potions professor at Hogwarts for five bloody years and DADA instructor for one more!" growled Snape, the spell colors on his skin flashing even brighter.
Hermione scoffed, "Professor Slughorn taught me potions and we had a string of people to tutor us in DADA but, you weren't one of them!" she snapped, "I have no clue who think you are or why you'd claim to have been one of my teachers."
"Stop it, the pair of you!" hissed another, familiar voice, "Let's get these curses neutralized before you two start hurling hexes at each other and hit one of us instead."
"Bill!? What are you doing here?" asked Hermione, her brow furrowed in a deep frown, "Don't you work at Gringott's?"
Cautiously approaching the witch with his wand hand down at his side, the oldest Weasley brother said, "Hermione, I haven't worked at Gringott's since last year, about a month after the war. You know that...or you should, you were there at the Burrow the night I made the announcement to everyone, that I was going to become a consultant with Malfoy Industries...my latest assignment was setting up the security systems for this place."
"That's.....it's not possible...it can't be..," stuttered Hermione as her knees started to wobble, her head spinning and throbbing in time to her pulse, she would have fallen to floor if Bill hadn't caught her and helped her to a nearby chair. Had she really lost a year of her memories? Or more if the stranger in black was to be believed.
Someone, she didn't register who, said, "Let's get these spells off of them as soon as possible, then sort out when and how it happened. I have a fair idea who did this but, we'll need proof to have him arrested."
Ginny was in a mild panic. She and Luna had made it into the main area of the club but, when they turned around, Hermione was no where to be seen. And, if it weren't for Luna she would have started ripping the place apart looking for their missing friend.
"It's okay, Ginny," cooed Luna, "I saw Draco escorting her to another part of the club. She looked quite lovely all lit up in blue and green. Although, I think that means the Revelare misting elixir was working." Taking one of Ginny's hands into her one of hers, Luna gave her a reassuring squeeze, "Everything is going to be okay, Ginny, you were right to bring her here. Now, she'll get the help she needs."
Minutes later, Draco found the two witches and ushered them back to the room adjoining the one where he'd taken Hermione, explaining what Bill had discovered during his initial diagnostics scan. It took him and Luna to keep Ginny from rushing out of the nightclub and doing something reckless.
"Believe me, I understand how you feel, Ginny," Draco assured the furious witch, "And, trust me, that bastard will pay for what he's done."
"We need to let the boys know your suspicions were right, Ginny," said Luna, "I'll use my DA coin and message them now."
The twins, Harry and Ron walked through the entrance to Wizarding London and headed down the wide lane past rows of high-end boutiques towards the nightclubs and restaurants. Ron was getting antsy, wanting to get thoroughly sloshed and relieve his carnal wants with a willing witch or two before the wedding tomorrow...not that he would stop these habits afterwards as he was certain his 'Mione was going to be as frigid in bed as she was out of it...and a wizard had needs, after all.
"Where are we going exactly?" he grumbled while staring at a busty blonde witch and her,equally shapely brunette companion as they strolled by the four wizards and into a club called 'The Temptress'. "Why not here? It's looks as good a place as any for a stag-do."
The twins and Harry looked at one another and burst out laughing, further irritating the youngest ginger wizard. "What's so funny about that?" Ron huffed, crossing his arms across his chest.
"Because, little brother," chuckled Fred, "You're not exactly their type," smirked George.
Still not taking the hint, Harry answered through gasps for air, "It's...it's a lesbian nightclub, Ron. You...you don't have...anything that...that would interest them."
Flushing a bright red, Ron muttered under his breath and kept walking down the avenue with his fists stuffed into his jeans pockets. He wouldn't have minded watching a little witch-on-witch action but, he didn't want to get caught ogling and hexed for it. He'd learned that lesson at Hogwarts when he found two seventh year girls making out in the rose garden at the Yule Ball in his fourth year. Ron didn't remember what spells hit him but, he was in the infirmary for a couple days afterwards dealing with rashes and boils in places that should never have them.
Moments later he whinged, "Are we there yet?", he desperately wanted a drink not a scenic stroll about the park.
"Don't worry, Ron," said Harry, "It'll be worth the wait, we promise."
Harry nearly jumped out of skin when the golden coin in his pocket heated up and from the change in expressions on the twins' faces, they had been contacted, too. ('Shite! I should have listened to Ginny sooner," he thought as he read the message, 'I should have known something was wrong when Hermione left Hogwarts to join the Auror program with me and Ron.')
It took Bill thirty minutes to counteract the curses on Snape and another hour to unravel the ones on Hermione. Since she had the added complication of memory alterations, and Snape was far more adept with mind magics, Bill had him working on unraveling the false memories while Malfoy Sr. assisted with removing the various compulsion charms from the witch.
Sometime during these ninety minutes, Draco had contacted the DMLE and a couple of Aurors had shown up to document the curse-breaker's findings and record the treatments required to repair the damage. Meanwhile, Ginny and Luna, with the occasional input from Draco, quietly plotted their revenge for the harm done to Hermione and Severus.
"I can contact Harry, again," said Ginny, "He, Fred and George would make sure the 'guest of honor' wound up here after dinner but, I think we should let Snape and Hermione have the final say."
"Agreed," replied Draco, "After everything that's happened, they should decide if this is something they want to do."
Luna tilted her head slightly and looked at the pair in question and said breathily, "They will, they just need to add a few of their own personal touches to the plan."
"Bugger me!" declared Bill, collapsing onto the nearby black leather settee, "I think I need a drink after all this, we all do."
"Just water for me, please," hissed Hermione as she struggled to sit up from the chaise that she had been stretched out upon, unblocking her true memories and removal of the compulsion spells had left her feeling like the Hogwarts Express had run her over...repeatedly.
"Take this, too," said Severus as he pulled out a couple of crystal vials from his robe pocket, handing her one and uncorking and drinking the other himself, "It's a migraine relief and general pain potion," he explained.
"Thank you," Hermione said wearily, tipping the bottle back and downing it in one gulp, sighing as the mixture kicked in, "So, what do we do now? Other than the obvious hexing the shite out of my former fiancé," she growled, tugging the cheap silver engagement ring off her finger and stuffing it in her beaded bag.
"We may have a few ideas about that," smirked Draco, as he gestured between himself and Luna and Ginny, "This could take awhile, may I suggest a light snack while we talk?"
After Snape and Granger nodded their agreement, the younger Malfoy called for a house-elf and placed an order before laying out their scheme to the others in the room.
Snape and Granger listened with interest until the three conspirators finished. "Your plan has merit," drawled Severus, "But, there's something missing."
"And, I know just how to make it better," said Hermione, "That is, if you're willing to do it, Professor."
"After everything we've been through, call me Severus," he said with a slight twitch to the corner of his mouth.
"Only if you call me, Hermione," she replied, "Now, here's what I had in mind...."
"Perfect!" exclaimed Ginny, with a devious gleam in her eyes,"He won't know what hit him."
"All the better to show him what he's going to miss," cooed Luna.
"As much as I would like to stay and watch," said Bill, standing and readying himself to leave, "I need to see my parents and prepare them for the fallout...or, in Mum's case, prevent her from coming down here and strangling my pathetic excuse of a brother."
Hermione walked over and pulled Bill into a hug, "Tell Molly I'm sorry that I won't be her new daughter-n-law and I'll reimburse her and Arthur for all the wedding expenses."
"I will but, I'll doubt they'll take a knut from you," murmured Bill, "None of this was your fault," he added when he saw the distress on Hermione's face.
Gently removing himself from her grip, Bill turned on his heel and left the room, heading for the floo connection in Draco's office down the hall.
"Don't worry, Miss Granger," drawled Lucius, "I'll make sure the funds are returned to your former in-laws-to-be."
Puzzled, she asked, "Why would you do that for them...or for me, for that matter? Not that I'm not grateful, mind you."
Lucius gently smiled down at the witch, "Because they don't deserve to pay for their son's mistakes and, neither should you. And, since you don't seem to remember, yet, if it weren't for you and Potter pushing for fair trials, my family and I would be rotting away in Azkaban," he explained, "Now, if you will excuse me," he said with a slight bow, "I need to contact Narcissa and get us good seats for the show."
Hermione sat on the chaise cradling her head in her hands. The majority of her memories had returned but, a couple more had taken longer to trickle back into her mind. When it finally sank in just how much had been taken away from her and Severus, Hermione's anger and grief started to bubble up, her emotions causing her hair to move as if from an unseen breeze.
Glancing over at Snape, she let out a strangled sob, "I'm so sorry for what I said and threatened to do to you. Can you ever forgive me?"
"As you've been told, none of what happened was your fault," stated Snape, his face hidden by a curtain of his hair, his hands down by his sides, clenched into tight fists. He really wanted to punch the Weasel in the face right about now for what he had put them through. He and Hermione had a budding relationship going and a promising potions-arithmancy research project underway when the ginger git threw a spanner into their lives.
Severus flinched when Hermione touched his left arm with one of her soft hands, he had been so caught up in his thoughts that he hadn't seen her stand up and move across the room. "Do you think....would you consider...Can we pick up where we left off?" she asked hesitantly, despite everyone's assurances, she still felt ashamed of her actions.
Snape's dark eyes snapped up to look at Granger's pleading face and his breath hitched, he hadn't wanted to hope in case she no longer felt the same towards him. "We never did have our first date," he murmured.
Suddenly his arms were full with a happy little witch as she hugged him tightly about the waist, her face lit up with a beaming smile. "I wasn't sure you remembered or if you'd still want to have anything to do with me after everything," Hermione said, trembling with relief, "What did you have in mind?"
"Let's start with our plans for the Weasel and see where the night leads us after that," Severus drawled, the tension dropping from his shoulders,"I'm sure we can find something...enjoyable to do afterwards."
Harry, Fred, George and Ron were currently seated at 'Cibo E Vino' enjoying a pizza with everything on it when an excited ring-tailed lemur Patronus bounded up to Harry and announced in a male voice unknown to them, "This is a reminder of your ten o'clock reservations for the 'Enchantment'. Please be at the front entrance in fifteen minutes. We look forward to providing the entertainment for your personalized bachelor party."
As the wispy silver-blue Patronus faded, the twins jumped up pulling Harry and Ron to their feet as they did. "Come on you two, we don't want to be late!" they said together.
"Don't get your knickers in a twist," mumbled Ron over the last slice of pizza stuffed in his mouth. "I'm sure they won't give away our spot, seeing as how two members of The Golden Trio are going to be there."
Harry winced, partly because of Ron's atrocious habit of speaking with his mouth full of food and the rest due to that awful title they were tagged with in The Daily Prophet. "I'll be right back," he said, "I need to use the loo and freshen up."
"Don't be too long," said George, with a sly wink to Harry. He knew that the younger wizard wanted to send a return message to the club to let Ginny know that they were on the way, the Patronus mentioning the reservations was the signal that the girls were at the club waiting on them.
Pulling his wand from his arm holster, Fred pointed it at his younger brother, "Let's get you sorted, too," he smirked, casting a strong cleansing charm over Ron, "Can't have the man of the hour looking like a greasy slob for the ladies."
"Oi! Go easy on that spell, I just needed my skin washed not scrubbed off," Ron scowled, certain that a layer of hair had been ripped from his arms, too.
Ignoring his brother's complaining, Fred pulled Ron by the arm out of their booth. "Take care of the bill, George," he said, heading towards the exit with Ron in tow," I'll get the first two rounds of drinks at the 'Enchantment".
"Deal!" agreed George, knowing full well that Fred was just directing Ron's attentions away from the back of the restaurant so he wouldn't see Harry's stag Patronus bounding out of the loo, "Harry and I will catch up with you outside."
Ginny, Luna, Hermione and Severus were backstage letting Draco apply some last minute changes to their appearances before the subject of their ire arrived.
"Hold still, Uncle Severus, it's only some minor glamours and a demi-mask to conceal your identity. We don't want the Weasel to know his little game is over before we've had our fun," fussed Draco, "Just remember, don't lose those over-ride bracelets or the illusions will drop in an instant."
"Sweet Circe!" exclaimed Ginny as she looked in a mirror, "My own mother wouldn't recognize me now," she giggled.
"Stop fidgeting, Severus, you look perfect," stated Hermione, staring in the mirror at her own straight, raven-black coif and strange face.
Snape rolled his eyes, "I highly doubt that," he scoffed. Leaning in he growled in her ear, "I prefer you in your original form."
"Is that your way of saying you like me the way I am?" she smirked, a light blush creeping over her features.
"Well, you could be a little bit less of a know-it-all," he replied with a straight face but, the teasing glint in his eyes gave him away.
"Merlin! Would you two just snog and get it over with," chuckled Ginny, "It's obvious to everyone here that you still fancy each other."
Now it was Severus' turn to flush pink, something that Hermione was quick to notice before he covered his cheeks with the black silk Zorro-like mask.
Her whiskey-amber eyes met his obsidian-black orbs and she sighed to herself, ('I would really like it if we did kiss...damn, I could get lost in those eyes...does he realize how sexy I find his intelligence?...and, that voice! Merlin, it's like sin dipped in dark chocolate...it should be illegal....').
Whispering so that only Hermione could hear, Snape said, "You seem to have forgotten that I'm an accomplished Legilimens, Hermione, and your thoughts are rather loud and clear."
She gasped and broke eye contact, choosing instead to look at an interesting spot on the floor next to her black stilettos.
Turning her around towards him, Snape placed his index finger under Granger's chin and tilted her face back up towards his. "I didn't say they were unwelcome."
Hermione's breath hitched, "Are you saying...I mean...that you...?" her words failed her, afraid to voice the question.
Running his calloused thumb gently across her lower lip, he asked, "May I kiss you?"
He heard her barely audible 'Yes' and lowered his face towards hers and placed his lips on hers in a soft, almost chaste, kiss. Severus started to pull away but, Hermione had other ideas. Threading her fingers through his hair and grasping the back of his head with both her hands, she dragged his face back down to hers and engaged his mouth in a firmer caress. After a light swipe of her tongue along the seam of his lower lip, he eagerly opened his mouth to her and they deepened the kiss even more, tasting the sweetness of each other's mouths for the first time in several months.
A throat being cleared loudly interrupted any further interaction, for the time being. "Sorry about that, Uncle Severus, Granger, but our target has arrived," Draco apologized, "And, I'll need to fix your hair, again...unless, you two were going for the freshly snogged look," he smirked.
Draco barely dodged the stinging hexes Severus and Hermione sent his way.
Harry, the twins and Ron cleared the Revelare spray and drying station and headed towards the main stage where four seats had been marked 'Reserved - Weasley party', a bottle of champagne on ice waiting to be opened was setting next to one of the chairs labeled 'For the Groom'.
"Perfect..front row," said Fred. "And center stage," added George. "Best seats in the house, little brother!" they said, clapping their hands roughly on Ron's shoulders, nearly knocking him off his feet.
"Looks like we got here just in time, too," stated Harry as the overhead lights flickered and gradually dimmed, leaving the runway as the main source of lighting for that part of the club.
A Sonorous-enhanced voice boomed out, "Welcome all to this evenings featured entertainment at the 'Enchantment', so, sit back and enjoy the show. But, as a gentle reminder...Absolutely no touching of the performers is allowed."
"Well, where's the fun in that?," grumbled Ron.
"This isn't a strip club, Ron," said Harry, shaking his head, "This is a different style of performance."
"It had better be something if you can't touch the dancers," Ron pouted. Harry and the twins all rolled their eyes at the buffoon. 'No class' George mouthed to Harry when Ron's head turned to ogle a buxom blonde in a short, form-fitting midnight blue dress.
Harry shook his head, Ron obviously had a type and they looked nothing like Hermione.
By the time Ron's attention wandered back to the stage, three raven-haired women in black stilettos and semi-sheer body tights with darker bodice and pant underlays had taken their positions on the runway. The youngest Weasley brother wrinkled his nose at the trio, they obviously were nothing like the blonde that had caught his eye earlier but, that all changed the moment the music began and the three started their routine.
Between the lyrics, the beat of the music and the sensual movements of the witches Ron was mesmerized.
('I wonder what would happen if Ron found out that he was drooling over his sister, Luna and Hermione right now?') mused Harry. To be honest, he wasn't sure which one was which, either. At least, not until he caught a faint shimmer of a ring on one of the two dancers in the back. That was his Ginny. And, if he had to guess, he figured Hermione was the dancer out front. She'd want to show the slobbering twit what he was never going to enjoy.
As the piece ended and the trio exited, the twins and Harry heard Ron mutter under his breath, "Bloody Hell!"
"Just wait, little brother," said George. "It gets even better," smirked Fred.
When Hermione, Luna and Ginny returned to the safety of the back stage, Draco got to work altering Hermione's appearance for her solo number. She was about to step back out to the platform when Severus grabbed Hermione by the waist and pulled her into a tight embrace, her back to his chest. Pressing his head close to her right ear, he licked the outer shell and growled, "After this performance...please tell me you are never going to dress like this again for anyone but me."
Hermione shivered from the grumbling timber of his voice and was tempted to tease him back. That is, until she looked up and saw the expression in his eyes. There was desire, for certain, but a vulnerability, too.
Turning around in his arms and placing her hands on either side of his face, Hermione murmured, "Only if you promise that the two dances we perform together, you will never do with anyone else but me."
Severus' shoulders relaxed and the unguarded relief in his eyes quickly shifted over to one of pure devilment. "Agreed," he purred, "Now, get out there and distract him while Luna and Ginny get into position."
Hermione barked out a laugh, "With this disguise?" she said gesturing to her revealing outfit, 'That won't be difficult."
While Draco was adding last minute touches to Hermione's latest persona, Ginny and Luna had altered their looks again and made their way back into the crowd, taking on the roles of wait staff to serve drinks to the Weasley bachelor party.
Luna, now sporting a honey-brown bob-cut hairdo and a modest pale blue dress with matching sandals, walked over to the group. She would be supplying Ron his 'specialty' cocktails while Ginny, in a matching outfit and hairstyle, provided Hairy and the twins un-doctored refreshments.
As the heavy metal music started, Hermione made her entrance and every eye in the room was instantly drawn to the busty raven-haired witch in a black leather, silver-metal studded belly dancing costume. No one seemed to be immune to the sight, wizard or witch. Hermione would have laughed about that but, she had a job to do. Sauntering toward her former fiancé, Hermione fully embraced her role as the sensuous diversion.
Ronald was so focused on watching the witch on stage, he hardly noticed Luna placing the Veritaserum-laced Black Velvet into his hands. Without taking his eyes off Hermione, he gulped down half of the tasty beverage, presuming that one of his brothers had ordered the drinks. ('Idiot', Harry thought, 'Obviously, he's not paid any attention in our Auror training classes. Better for us though, he won't know what's happening until it's too late.')
With a slight nod, Harry signaled two Aurors, disguised as club patrons, to take up position at a small table directly behind Ronald. They would ensure that everything Ronald said in response to Harry's and the twins' questions was properly recorded so that the ginger git couldn't claim bias later on.
Harry waited two minutes to allow the Veritaserum time to take effect before he began his interrogation of his former best friend.
And, if it hadn't been for the presence of the two Aurors, Harry and the twins would have strangled the loathsome wizard.
"So, Ron, are you excited about marrying Hermione tomorrow?" asked Harry, seeing the telltale shimmer in Ron's eyes that indicated the potion was working.
"You must be joking," sneered Ron, "I said it once and I'll say it again, she's a nightmare."
"But, we thought you loved her," frowned George. "Yeah, you told us she was the only witch for you," added Fred.
"No," snickered Ron, "What I said was 'Mione belonged to me and no one else."
"If you don't love her, then why are you marrying her?" Harry asked through clenched teeth.
"For her money, of course...and the fame...I'll have all sorts of witches swarming about wanting to shag me after that...it's a good thing, too, 'cause 'Mione is as frigid as they come," smirked the callous ginger, "Brightest Witch of her Age, my freckled arse, you'd think she'd learned how to do something useful with her mouth instead of nattering on about stuff no one gives a toss about...but, I'll break her of that habit, you'll see."
Taking another swig of his drink he ranted on, "Can you believe that bitch received an Order of Merlin, First Class and fifty-thousand galleons and I only got a Third Class and five-thousand galleons!?" he huffed, "I mean how's that fair? All she really did was read a bunch of books. How's that rate a First Class award over actually fighting Death Eaters with you, Harry?"
Harry's hands were clenched tight into fists and he had to take a calming breath to answer without punching Ron and breaking his nose. "You do realize that Hermione's the reason we survived the Horcrux hunt all those months...because she did her research and came prepared with that little beaded bag of hers."
Ron snarled, "You or I could have easily done that, Harry, but, just because she's the 'Gryffindor Princess', and your friend, she got special treatment from the Ministry and the reward that should have rightfully been mine. Well, when we get married, all that becomes my property to do with as I please....including her."
"What do you mean by that?" snapped Harry, not believing the nerve of this obnoxious twit.
"Let's just say that the binding spells I picked out for the ceremony will be extra special, "chuckled Ron. "Now, if you don't mind," he added, downing the remainder of his drink, "I'm here to enjoy myself."
The two Aurors behind him shook their heads and gestured with a wave of a hand to keep Ron talking, they needed more details if they were going to arrest the detestable boy.
Hermione hurried backstage to change and grab some water before she and Severus began the first of their two dances.
"Allow me," Severus drawled and with a few flourishes, he altered Hermione's attire to a sparkling, mid-calf length black dress with a slit up to her right thigh and matching stilettos. Severus was in a tailored black suit with a white button-down shirt, shiny black dress shoes and the demi-mask. Both of them had short hair, his raven-black, hers a dark brown with blonde highlights.
"Wow," was all she said when she saw their reflections in the mirror.
"I still prefer your true form," he purred, placing one of his hands on the low part of her back just above the curve of her arse.
Her breath hitched but, before she could say anything, Harry ducked through the door behind them and said, "We may have a problem."
"The Aurors don't have enough, yet, to take Ron into custody and I think he may be getting suspicious," growled Harry, scrubbing a hand through his unruly hair in frustration.
"Don't worry, Harry," smirked Hermione, "Just get back out there and wait a couple of minutes. Trust me, if he has any misgivings, he'll forget them when he sees the two of us dancing."
"But," she added, "We have a backup plan in case he needs extra incentive to spill the beans."
Severus scowled, "Let's hope it doesn't come to that," the potions master hissed, "The mere thought that he'd have his grubby little fingers on you makes me want to just hex the odious boy and be done with it."
"I'm not looking forward to that either but, if it gets us what we need, I'll do it," Hermione said, "Now, leave, Harry, before Ron wonders where you've gone."
Harry barely made it back to his seat before Hermione and Severus took the stage and began their tango. They were fascinating to watch, their movements so graceful that for a few moments Harry forgot about his task.
A wandless stinging hex from one of the Aurors snapped Harry, and the twins, out of their reverie, blushing at being caught up in the moment. Clearing his throat, Harry, George and Fred once again began to question the gormless red-haired buffoon. It wasn't too difficult to get Ron to answer as he was thoroughly captivated by the witch on the platform and didn't notice he was landing himself in deeper trouble with every confession he made.
"Where did you find those special binding spells, Ron?" asked Harry, "Maybe I could use them for mine and Ginny's wedding, too."
"Forget that," said George, "I want to know how you got Hermione to say 'yes' to marrying you." "Yeah," agreed Fred, "You weren't exactly her favorite person, what changed?"
"That's easy," sneered Ron, his eyes never leaving the dancers, "I had gone to Grimmauld Place to have it out with Hermione about some stupid project she was doing with Snape. Greasy old bat was taking up all her time," he groused, "Anyway, I got pissed off that she wasn't there, went into the library and started blasting her research. That's when this envelope fell out of one of the books that tumbled off her desk. Only, it wasn't her handwriting, so, I picked it up and read it.
('Nosy shite', thought Harry.) Turns out it was Sirius Black writing Harry's dad about this perfect spell to get back at some Slytherin git he called Snivellus (Harry nearly snorted his drink), he said it would guarantee that Lily no longer had anything to do with the slimy Death Eater. Anyhow, I turned to the page in the grimoire that the letter mentioned and there it was, the answer to all my problems. The Somnia Vera Facit curse...the only drawbacks were that it could only be used once and I had to limit the number of things I could change. Oh, and I had to figure out how to get some blood from Hermione and Snape without them knowing about it to add to the spelled parchment. After that, all I had to do was wait for the next full moon, perform the ritual and 'poof!', the next day Hermione agreed to marry me. But, the best bit was watching her tell old Snape to bugger off."
"Well, that certainly explains a lot," said the twins. (Bloody Hell! Dark Ritual Magic and he doesn't even think twice about using it.)
"And tomorrow, when we take our vows, the binding spells will just be the icing on the cake," bragged Ron, "Hermione will be mine, forever, to do with as I please."
"Not if I can help it," muttered Ginny to the Harry as she served him a glass of plain cranberry juice.
"We'll all make sure that doesn't happen," whispered Harry, getting the nod from the Aurors that they had what they needed.
Stepping backstage, Ginny and Luna let Hermione and Severus know the good news.
"As soon as you two finish your last dance, the Aurors will arrest Ronald," said Luna, giving the couple a quick hug.
"Promise me, you'll make it a performance Ron will never forget," smirked Ginny, "After the potions Luna gave him in his drinks and food, that's all the pleasure he's going to get for the foreseeable future."
"What did you manage to slip him, Miss Lovegood?" asked Snape, not that it really mattered, one Ius Impotentia elixir would be sufficient to satisfy his need for payback...well, that and the Venereae Somnia potion...never-ending salacious dreams with no means of release, befitting for a grotty wanker like the Weasel.
"Everything," replied Luna, sticking her wand behind her right ear, "Ron should be feeling most of the effects by the time he arrives at the Ministry."
"I almost feel sorry for him," said Ginny with a wicked grin, "Almost."
"Ready for your big moment, my dear?" purred Severus as he changed their glamours for the last time.
"Most definitely," smirked Hermione, the devilish gleam in her whiskey-amber eyes matching the one in her partner's obsidian-black orbs.
When the sensuous heartbeat of the music started and the two dancers in white and red began their sultry routine, Ron nearly choked on his drink.
"Bloody Hell! They can't do that in public, can they?" Ron asked no one in particular. Not that he minded, of course, he couldn't take his eyes off the two as they twirled and swayed across the stage. ('I bet that witch wouldn't mind a private dance with me later,' he smirked, 'I'd show her a few new moves that she wouldn't soon forget. I wonder if she's friends any of those other witches that performed earlier....maybe I could talk her into bringing one or two of them along for some shared fun.')
It was a good thing Severus was Occluding otherwise everyone would have seen the disgust on his face when the lewd thoughts that the impertinent ginger was projecting reached him on stage.
"We need to end this soon or I will wind up in a cell next to this burke," growled Severus in Hermione's ear.
"I take it his thoughts are as rude as his body language," she replied, trying not to look at the boy unsubtly grinding his hips at her whenever she glanced his way.
"Indeed," said Snape, glaring down at the clueless menace.
"It's time for the show stopper, then, " Hermione murmured, a flick of her hand causing the music to repeat with lyrics in English, directing them so that Ron was certain to hear them.
'And when will you be back?
I will not return.
When will you be back?
I'm so far away already.
When will you be back?
One day or never'*
When the song reached the chorus for the last time, Hermione and Severus let their over-ride bracelets slip from their wrists, dropping their glamours instantly. In Ron's current state of inebriation, it took a few seconds for the change to register in his pickled mind. And, when it did, the results were extremely colorful...and entertaining...Luna failed to account for the amount of alcohol that the ginger twit managed to consume in such a short amount of time since entering the club (or did she?)....oops.
"Hermione!" screeched Ron, "What do you think you're doing?!" ('pop' a pair of Weasley-red donkey ears sprouted on his head) "Snape! Get your filthy, greasy mitts off my fiancé!" ('plip' a bright pink pig-nose and curly-cue tail appeared) "Harry! Don't just sit there, arrest that slimy Death Eater for assaulting Hermione! ('pffft' neon orange fur erupted over Ron's arms and legs, poking through his clothes in several places) "Fine! I'll do it myself! ('blorp' Ron was now wearing his bollocks as a pair of dangly earrings....well...that was an unforeseen side effect)
As soon as Ron tried to climb onto the stage, the Aurors (back in their official uniforms) grabbed him, placed magic-dampening restraints on his wrists and confiscated his wand.
"What are you doing!?" bellowed the indignant wizard, "He's the one who should be wearing these cuffs, not me!" he snarled, pointing at the man onstage ('shplop' oh dear...another unexpected reaction...Ron's flaccid todger was attached to the middle of his forehead, swaying in front of his eyes with every turn of his head). "What the Bloody Hell is that!?" he shrieked, only now noticing the changes going on with his body. "Don't just stand there you arseholes! Get me to St. Mungo's!" ('rriipp' the seat of Ron's jeans gave way revealing a bright red and blue mandrill's butt which glowed brighter the more agitated he became) "Hurry! Get me outta here!" Ron hissed, his forked green tongue emphasizing the point.
It took every bit of training the Aurors had to keep from breaking down into a fit of giggles as they took in their, still ranting, hodgepodge of a prisoner.
Everyone else in the club had no such compunction...not even Snape at this point, his deep-voiced laughter carrying over the rest of the crowd.
"Well, that was fun," smirked George, finally regaining his breath from laughing. "What do you two have planned for an encore?" Fred asked Hermione and Severus.
"Sorry, guys," said Hermione with a knowing wink, "If you want the Grand Finale, you'll have to go visit your brother at the Ministry in about ten minutes....I'd take a camera, too."
"Why? What happens then?," they asked, blue eyes twinkling in glee.
"That," drawled Severus, "Would spoil the surprise."
The twins didn't have to be told twice as they hastily made their 'goodbyes' and sprinted out the door to the nearest apparation point.
Two days later a photograph of a fully transformed Ronald Weasley appeared on the front page of both The Daily Prophet and The Quibbler with the following headline:
THE ELUSIVE CRUMPLE-HORNED SNORKACK - PROOF AT LAST!
Exclusive by Xenophilius and Luna Lovegood