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Tattoos

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Hermione calls once a week that summer, and Aunt Petunia says nothing. There is a haunted loathing in her eyes, but Uncle Vernon says nothing either, and Dudley is never around when the calls come anyway. He's fine, he's always fine, but one day he asks her, "Where can I get a tattoo?"

The answer is predictable Hermione - she'll have to do some research, and will let him know when she calls next week. They talk instead about Kneazles and Mrs. Figg's kindle. None of her Kneazles are quite as ugly as Harry thinks Crookshanks is, but he doesn't say that to Hermione, just listens impatiently to her chatter about the Burrow and her silence about Grimmauld Place.

The next week, he finds out that he won't be allowed a Wizarding tattoo until he's seventeen, but she's found a Muggle place that might do, not too far from Privet Drive. Ron could get to her place via Floo, and she would get them to Privet Drive. He tells her he'll send her the Galleons to change to pounds at Gringotts.

The next week, instead of a telephone call, he gets a Weasley on his doorstep. He gapes at Ginny's too-small tshirt and too-large jeans, and it's only her tart "Well, are you coming?" that gets him out the door and to the street, where Hermione is sitting behind the wheel of a little black Mini.

Ron's beside her, but cedes the front to Harry and clambers in the back with Ginny.

Hermione only says the car doesn't fly, and pilots them to to the tattoo studio. She's the kind of cautious driver at whom Uncle Vernon always swears and bleats his horn.

Ginny's the only one who wants a Phoenix, and hers has a dead snake in its claws. Harry stares at the floor instead of the pale skin at the small of her back.

Hermione wants two ravens, one for each shoulder blade. She says something about thought and memory, but Harry figures it has to do with being smarter than any two Ravenclaws put together. Or something.

Ron gets a chess piece, a black knight. He wants it on his hip, where no one can see in the changing rooms. They both know their dormmates won't comment. Harry traces the design in the book while Ron's in the chair, and the edges of his vision blur when he remembers that long ago chessboard, and Ron lying so still.

The needle doesn't hurt - nothing really hurts as much after Cruciatus, after Sirius, but it stings so much it seems to burn at first. The tears gather in his eyes until the burn goes ... distant, and before he knows it, he's looking down at a black dog on his hip, in the same place as Ron's knight.

He wants to stroke it, beneath the bandage, to let the tears spill somehow, but he's already thinking of the next one, a snitch on his shoulder, or a stag with the moon in its horns.