Sweeping in on a borrowed Firebolt, Ron called for an update on the situation. The young fighter who came to greet him had a hungry look in his eyes, but Ron decided it was just the kind you got from not eating for a while. They'd have to see about securing better supply routes; since they'd hastily made the location Unplottable and generally Apparation-proof, the supply teams were having a dreadful time finding it. They couldn't even allow Portkeys to be used, as they were sure that the enemy within the blasted hillside could easily build themselves a Portkey out, and they'd be set back years in their hunt.

The fighter in question was practically incomprehensible to Ron; he was obviously muggle-born, and kept making obscure references. He was especially proud that the squadron had managed to force a door - "That door's well forced, now, it is, as forced as the conversation on Family Fortunes, you know, when they're interviewing the families - that forced! We are well and truly in." Of course, when he was asked to elaborate on 'in', he meant they'd gained access to one more room, completely empty apart from a new set of evil wards which were thought to have already claimed the sanity of one of the disarming squad.

This piecemeal progress was infuriating. They'd known that Voldemort and his Inner Council had been trapped within the hillside for the past three months, but they hadn't known to begin with how much of a pain it would be to get them out. There was talk that it would have been easier to let them out and catch them on one of the inevitable occasions where they'd turn up somewhere relatively unprotected to do a spot of Muggle-torturing or have a good boast. Ron was beginning to agree with that talk, seeing the earnest young boy in front of him, who could be killed tomorrow discharging some other stupid protection spell on the seemingly impregniable compound.

Of course, it wasn't long before Ron was cornered by Colin Creevy. His voice has that whining, grating tone that Ron associated with the various artifacts of Muggle machinery he'd had the displeasure of being expected to use, like that infernal fax machine back at the office, a place he spent as little time as possible in.

"You won't believe who we just had out!" he enthused. "Draco Malfoy himself! He just crept into my office like something you'd find under a rock, maybe a centipede, except with ninety-eight less legs..."

"Get to the point, Colin. Do we have Draco and what's he offering?" asked Ron impatiently.

"I'd say that he had you," said an all-too-familiar voice from behind Ron. "I wouldn't turn around, if I were you. You might find you had slightly less to turn around with." To Ron's surprise, he felt not a wand but a knife at his back. A sharp knife. A knife sharper than the tone that Hermione had used when she addressed Cedric Diggory, Minister of Magic, over the matter of Ron's resignation from the Ministry and return to active service. He knew that he should be able to draw his wand and deal with the problem in an instant, but there was something insistant about the knife that informed him that sometimes Muggle weaponary could be just as deadly as the magical variety.

"I really didn't want to do this," protested Colin suddenly. Ron could feel the glare that Draco gave his reluctant supporter.

"The deal is simple," began Draco. "Almost as simple as Colin here, although it will probably prove to be more useful than I can imagine him ever becoming. You deactivate the Apparation shield, and not only do I not kill you, I don't kill Hermione, I don't kill Harry, and you're all free to do whatever you like when we're all gone from here."

"Your plans are still as lame as a duck, Malfoy," hissed Ron. "And I mean as lame as a duck that's actually lame, like it stepped on the wrong ward or something." He always had to spoil those witty come-backs, he reflected morosely. He certainly wished he hadn't muffed that one, as it was probably his last oppertunity.

To his surprise, he was not immediately rewarded with cold metal in the kidneys. In fact, the holder of the knife seemed somewhat distracted. Possibly it was Hermione riding to the rescue. She always had that impeccable sense of timing; down to knowing when to serve real butter and when they could get away with "I can't believe it's not butter", a strange Muggle concept that Hermione found great amusement from inflicting on certain dinner guests.

It would have been too easy if it had been Hermione, though, and anyway, she still couldn't handle a broomstick that well, even the latest models that practically flew themselves. No, it was the person he hated most in the world, apart perhaps from Voldemort, and even that was close. Pansy Parkinson, General of the Defending Forces and general annoying bigshot. And she was laughing at him, as usual. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh which she seemed to use only for him. Privately, he compared it to that sound a dog makes just before it throws up. It made him feel better, at least. It didn't help that she had the reputation of being easier than the Daily Star crossword - whatever one of *them* was, but Hermione had asssured him it was very easy indeed, after she'd recovered from her laughing fit - and had never looked twice at him.

Anyway, here was Pansy, riding in on her old boyfriend, except it appeared that the situation was not all that it seemed. "What are you looking at?" she asked mirthfully. "Turn around, Ronniekins."

Ron turned around slowly, to see his little sister standing there with a knife in her hands and a very smug expression on her face. She smiled a wide, happy smile, and then with one fluid motion reached up and slashed his face straight across his eyes, then plunging the knife into her brother's chest and disappearing from view, not that Ron was doing much viewing.

It hurt the way your tongue hurt when you accidentally staple it to the wall, or rather when your kid sister accidentally staples it to the wall, which had happened to Ron once upon a time, when his sister had not been an agent of dark forces but simply a clumsy and overly inquisitive kid. Except actually it hurt a lot more than that. He kept his feet for a moment, swaying in the gentle breeze of his approaching mortality, which put him in mind of the mindless oscellation of the ceiling fan in his office. He supposed he was probably going at about medium by the time he finally sank to his knees, bleeding all over the ground.

"And the reason Hermione broke up with you," hissed Pansy in his ear as his consciousness fades, "is that I was sleeping with her." The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, but compared to the betrayal of his sister, it was more like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free cashpoint. Since when did I know what a cashpoint was? he asked the gods of completely implausible challenge fic before he breathed his last on the blasted heath of Cotswaldshire.

To his surprise, they replied. Do be quiet, we didn't even get all the metaphors in, was their cryptic vouchsafing. And then the final darkness really did close over Ron. And Pansy and Hermione lived happily ever after, which was about thirty seconds before Voldemort blew the world apart by accident. The end.