The summer holidays dragged on in the oppressive atmosphere of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Hermione and Ron spent most of their days grumbling at each other or being anxious about Harry, with whom they had still not been allowed to communicate. So it was a particularly happy hour for them when a fed-up Mrs. Weasley announced they would be going to Diagon Alley for some much-needed housekeeping supplies.
"You two stick together. We'll meet in an hour by that sick-looking barn owl, poor thing," she ordered, dragging an angry Ginny away down the bustling street.
Ron and Hermione were so excited to be out, having been cooped up for so long, that they forgot to argue, and if they had remembered they probably wouldn't even have bothered.
"Oh, let's go in there," suggested Hermione, pointing at the window of Radchencko's Magical Vinyl Shoppe." I think there are more than one of these," she explained as Ron followed her, "but this is the original."
"Bit cramped, isn't it?"
The shop was very narrow and subdivided by unfinished wooden rows of records, each sorted by artist and genre. Posters hung everywhere. Many were quite old and tattered, finding their wall space encroached upon by more recent shiny upstarts.
"Well," temporized Hermione, as she watched a large wizard with unwashed hair rifle through a box of tapes, "maybe we could come back later."
Ron didn't answer. He was looking at the new release wall. His cheeks went pink and he turned away.
"What?" he asked, and made as if to tie his boot.
Hermione ran her eyes over the records on the wall.
"Oh, Ron!" It was the last one on the top row: "Livia and the Poisoners."
The album was a shiny black with a pale dark-haired woman on it. She was on her knees, legs spread very far apart, and wearing a collar. Her gloved hands caressed an old-fashioned microphone on a collapsed stand.
Ron refused to look at Hermione.
"I'm beginning to think you hold a very low opinion of women."
"Don't be stupid," he spat back, stung by her words. "I just thought it was a nice design, is all! I like the colours."
"It's black, Ron. Are you sure it's not her breasts you were staring at? Maybe her legs? She's showing enough of them."
"It was your idea to come in here, remember?"
"Yes, and now I'm leaving." The small bell above the door jangled as Hermione roughly swept out into the street.
Ron debated following her, but instead asked the shopkeeper, "Excuse me, may I see that record, please?"
It wasn't long before Hermione was done with her shopping, and she returned to Radchencko's just in time to see Ron slipping out of the door, a square paper parcel tucked surreptitiously under his arm.
"Oh, Ron. You didn't!"
He fidgeted guiltily for an instant. "I heard someone mention it at school as being good. I thought I'd see for myself." He pointed at her own bags. "What did you get?"
"School supplies, and don't change the subject. I can't believe you! I bet you don't even know what kind of music that is."
"Rock?" he guessed. When she shook her head he was too surprised to be embarrassed. Wasn't all modern music "rock"?
Back at Grimmauld Place, Sirius happily dusted off his old portable turntable with case, and gave it to Ron.
"I used to have a pretty good record collection. I wonder if my mother turfed them all? I'll have to ask Kreacher."
Ron thanked him and tried not to bolt up the steps to his room. He set up the turntable and slowly tore the paper wrapping away from the record.
There she was again - Livia, her skin milky white in contrast with the black background. Her light green eyes stared at him unashamedly. Ron focused on her clothes, all black leather that was somehow luminous. His took her in slowly, piece by piece, the curve of her breasts in the leather bra, the dark triangle of the bikini bottom between her spread legs, skin-hugging boots, and finally the collar with its steel ring which flashed and matched the chrome of the microphone stand.
Carefully, keeping his fingers to the edges, he folded open the album sleeve. He turned it lengthwise to face him. Her outfit was different - white lace underwear with small pink bows. She looked younger, and he marvelled at the complexity of her underthings: the garter belt, stockings, the small snaps. She lay half-raised on the floor examining herself in a mirror. White rope lay limply coiled on the carpet about her. She seemed to be busy with one snakelike cord, in the process of either tying or freeing her wrist and ankle...he couldn't decide which.
Ron held his breath and slid the black vinyl out of its thin paper sleeve, breathing in its freshly-pressed aroma. He brought it to the turntable and very delicately guided the needle into the groove.
There was a fuzzy crackling noise, and then a low bass beat. He climbed onto his bed and held the album cover in his hand, losing himself in her eyes as she began to purr over the dirty electro-noise.
When Hermione peeked in later, Ron was on the bed with his eyes closed. His arms clasped the record over his chest, which rose and fell in peaceful measures.
"Oh, honestly," she whispered.
Up in her own room, she locked the door and stood before her dressing mirror. Reaching into one of her new bags, she pulled out a small collar. She looked it over, and then gently, using both hands, fastened it around her throat.
Hermione pulled back her hair and ran a finger over the smooth black velvet, tugging lightly on the ring at the front so that it jingled. She examined herself in the mirror, smiling at how well the dark band accentuated the paleness of her skin.
She could feel the steady beat from the record below rising up through her body, the same that touched Ron in his dreaming.