The distant yell from downstairs broke the heavy silence in the topmost room of The Burrow. He moved from his place on the bed and knelt on the floor beside her; in no hurry to answer the call.
He was stunned.
"You'll find them, though, won't you? You know where they've gone,"
He laid a hand on her shoulder, his touch a gesture of warmth not often displayed. She willed her eyes to remain dry as she stared blankly at the floor. How could she explain? She was worried that they wouldn't remember. They had been everything to her before Hogwarts, before she'd had any real friends. Now she had made them forget. Would they ever remember?
She sniffled as the tears she had been holding back finally leaked from the corners of her eyes. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, muttered a cleaning charm, and gently offered her the mildly stained piece of cloth.
"I do know where they've gone, Ron, but will they remember me after all of this is over?" She wiped the tears that threatened to spill yet again, "Will they remember that they even had a daughter after this is all done?"
She looked up at him, and into his eyes. The bluest eyes that she had ever seen. She remembered when she had first really looked into them; it had been Christmas afternoon of their fifth year. He had just pulled his Weasley jumper over his head, so his hair was quite tousled, and was attempting to force hers over her bushy hair as well. His eyes held a look of dangerous mischief as he told Harry and Ginny to pin her down while he got her. That was the day she realized she wanted him to be more than her friend, the day she really, truly accepted it.
His eyes were different now; she had noticed that as soon as she saw him when she came for the summer holidays. He was calm, his eyes no longer betrayed every emotion that he felt; he was so much more subtle in all his actions, really. But right now, instead of hiding his emotions from her, she saw an expression on his face, in his eyes, that stopped her heart. He was looking at her, so gently, so sweetly, as if her tears were causing him pain.
Could he feel what she was feeling? How could he feel the pain that was consuming her very being? Did he feel for her what she felt for him, could he love her like she loved him? It was impossible to tell, she wouldn't dare hope it was true, but it was there, in front of her, and she couldn't deny that.
They jumped simultaneously away from each other as the silence was broken again, this time by a yell that sounded much closer to his room than it had before.
Ron had jumped up so suddenly at Mrs. Weasley's call, that he had bumped his head on the sloped ceiling. Letting out a stream of curses that would surely have his mother as red as a ripe tomato if she heard him, he stood rubbing his head as he walked to the door. He yelled down to his mum that he would be right there, not adding, of course, the diatribe Don't get your knickers in a twist woman, the wedding's not for 2 weeks!" that followed after slamming his door shut.
He knelt down in front of Hermione again, and softly patted her head as she blew her nose.
"Don't worry, Hermione, they'll be fine. You'll find them, and when you do, they'll remember." As he walked to the door, he turned around and gave a small smile, "and I'll be there to help."
As soon as they were in the air, she knew something was wrong. A hair-raising shriek sounded behind her, and she twisted on the thestral in fear. They were surrounded; hooded black figures all with their wands raised were around them. Without warning, spells and jinxes began ringing through the air. She heard Kingsley unseat several Death-Eaters at once, his strong voice booming. She heard Tonks behind her, and Mad-Eye Moody ahead. They were all fighting, all trained in combat she was so unprepared.
Ron's voice shouted out from beside her, a Death Eater had his wand aimed at her, now frozen in the air and falling fast, thanks to Ron's quick thinking.
"Snap out of it! Use your wand!" Kingsley's voice shouted behind her as he made a slashing motion that unseated another hooded figure in front of them. She turned to face him, lost in what to do, how to handle the chaotic scene before her, and saw something that made her stomach drop.
"Protego! Petrificus totalus!" Her wand was raised of its own accord, pointing at the Death Eater behind Kingsley. His mask fell as he was hit with her unexpectedly strong Body Bind spell, and she saw the anger and shock on his familiar pointed face.
Kingsley looked around in surprise, shooting a spell at him just before he had time to send another curse. "Thanks. I didn't know Stupefy! Diffindo!" There were Death Eaters just behind her. As she twisted to see them, to fight them, she heard Ron's startled shout his broom was on fire!
The Death Eaters had surrounded them, made a wall keeping them separated from the rest. A sinister green jet of light whizzed past her head a near miss
"Confringo! Stupefy!" She shot these spells without thinking, without hearing if they made their mark. Her only concern was behind the wall of masked men, perhaps falling on a fiery broomstick that could no longer hold him up.
She had to get to him; he would fall if someone didn't catch him
The thestral flew forward, its great leathery wings swatting menacingly at the Death Eaters attempting to close in on them.
"Stupefy! Petrif Protego!" The Death Eater in front of her had sent a jet of red fire toward her; the very same that had lit Ron's broomstick. "Aguamenti! Stupefy!" Kingsley was behind her, his wand moving so fast it was a blur.
She waved her wand, a nonverbal spell forming in her mind, and suddenly the two Death Eaters in front of her were spinning like tops, revolving uncontrollably towards each other. With a sick sounding crack! they smacked into each other and rebounded, holding their heads in pain.
She didn't hear Kingsley's congratulatory words, and instead she searched the skies, intent only on getting Ron to safety. What she saw, however, stopped her heart; she couldn't see him anywhere. All she could see was the darkness that surrounded her like a thick, stifling cloak.
Where was he? She searched the air below her, but she couldn't find anyone with the messy, black hair falling to the ground. Spells whizzed past her ears, but she had no thought except for his safety.
She swooped lower on the creature, its wings leading her further into the night. She couldn't see him anywhere. Where was he?!
"He's fine! He's there, he's right there! Protego!" Kingsley's shield spell held the two Death Eaters behind them at bay. She hadn't realized she had screamed his name.
She looked up, and saw to her relief that Tonks and Ron had gotten another broom, and were heading fast towards their safe-house.
Her thoughts were cut off by a large blast to her left. The motorcycle carrying Harry was in the distance, she saw a giant brick wall that had materialized in mid-air, one Death Eater crashed into it, but the others flew around, intent on their target. She raised her wand, would she be able to get them from this distance?
Suddenly a white hot pain shot through her body and her thestral lurched forward. She looked up, gasping in pain, and saw a Death Eater, his wand held high above her. Kingsley moved to protect her, shooting a jet of bright blue towards the Death Eater.
The pain was gone as fast as it had come, and she sped into action as the Death Eater yelled, angry that his quarry had gone unharmed. She fled towards their safe-house, Kingsley behind her sending spells over his shoulder. The Death Eaters were attempting to keep up but their brooms were flying slower than the thestral's wings. Jets of light missed her as she hunched low, dodging the harmful spells as they whizzed past her.
And suddenly they stopped, there were no shouts of fury, no bursts of light; the air whooshing past her gave no indication of followers, no indication of a fight. She turned her head, her now brown hair flipping back with the motion, and saw to her surprise that the sky behind her was clear. The protective spells worked, and she found herself thanking the heavens that they did. How long they would hold, though, she didn't know. Suddenly, the creature beneath her began descending, it's long neck bent forward towards the ground. She felt herself slipping forward, and attempted to weave her hand through the thestral's long mane more securely.
She saw the silhouette of their safe-house almost directly beneath her; the distance between herself and the grassy lawn in front of it was decreasing rapidly, and she feared they would crash. She closed her eyes and held her breath once more, readying herself for the impact as the beast slowed its speed. Bracing herself tighter against the animal, she felt it gently land on the ground and trot a little before it stopped. Still amazed at being able to ride a thestral (and the gentle landing), she slid off of its back, her knees wobbly from shock at being alive after such a steep dive.
"We have to hurry," Kingsley said as he dismounted the thestral. "The Portkey will be activated in seven minutes' time. Let's go!"
He ran onto the porch, the door swinging open at his command, a man's voice exclaimed loudly in relief at their arrival, and suddenly Hermione was face to face with a strong jawed man with straw colored hair, who was noticeably thinner than the last time she'd seen him on the cover of the Daily Prophet as a convicted felon. Sturgis Podmore pointed to a small bent coat hanger on the corner of a coffee table in his sitting room as he spoke.
"There's the Portkey Are you two alright?" He nodded at Hermione, acknowledging her presence, assuring himself they were alright, before he began to speak to Kingsley, "What happened? You were supposed to be here more than twenty minutes ago."
"They knew." A silent look passed between the two men at those words, the weight of what he said shook Hermione to the core.
"At least we know our protective charms hold," Sturgis said, "What about the others, did everyone get out alright?"
Another heavy silence passed between the two, and Hermione's stomach dropped.
She hoped with all her will that he was alright, that he wasn't hurt. And suddenly she thought about Harry, he was with Hagrid, his safe-house was the nearest one, he had to be okay, they both had to be okay. How could she live without either of them?
"Someone leaked the information, Sturgis," Kingsley began, his voice lowered to a growl, "if I find who did " he let the threat hang in the air, his eyes piercing.
"Aye, and you'll have me to help you," Sturgis stood up to the silent threat, faced it head on, conveying through his eyes he was not guilty, "But for now, you've got to get ready, the Portkey will be ready soon."
Kingsley nodded, somehow sure, now that he had spoken with Sturgis that he was not the one who had betrayed them. "Thank you for your help, if you "
Sturgis waved him off, "After all this hiding, I'm glad I was able to help, even if I wasn't able to be in the guard " he stopped abruptly looking at the coat hanger, "Quickly! Your Portkey!" It was glowing blue, she hastily placed her finger upon it just as Kingsley did, and felt the telltale wrenching behind her navel. The small house swam out of view as a multitude of colors and sounds rushed past her, her hair flying around her head. Suddenly, she felt her feet hit the ground, and her knees buckled beneath her.
She saw Harry and Ginny rushing towards them, Lupin and Hagrid following closely. She grabbed Harry and clutched him tightly to her, still shaking in the aftermath of the battle.
He's safe. He's safe.
"You're okay you're alright."
She hugged Harry tightly, thanking the Gods they were all okay. She turned towards Ron, to embrace him, to tell him that she had been so afraid, for him, for her, for them but he wasn't there.
"They're not here yet."
She was stunned. He was supposed to be here, he should have arrived before her. She watched Ginny's lips moving, but didn't hear a word.
She saw Kingsley raise his wand. She saw Lupin shake his head. She saw Mr. Weasley, Fred she saw everyone except Ron.
She saw Harry's face, looked into his eyes, and knew that he was thinking the same she was. Ron was the constant between the three of them. He was always there, standing with them, ready to fight.
So where was he now? Why wasn't he here? Why hadn't he come yet? The Order had been so specific in their plan. The Portkeys would have been activated for two full minutes after the original take-off time. How could he not be here?
She looked up, tears swimming in her eyes with worry and fear; wondering where he could be. She wiped her eyes, the tears blurring the images in front of her, and looked to the skies again, only to let out a sob of relief.
She saw him and Tonks fly down, smoke trailing behind them, as though this broom had also been struck with fire. She rushed forward as they landed roughly, her arms falling around him and holding him close.
He was safe.
He was with her, he was safe.
Hermione rubbed the bruise forming on her head as she sat up, her eyes squinting up to look at the sunlight flowing between the leaves of the trees surrounding them. Groaning, she looked around and gasped in horror. There was blood smeared on her body, on her clothes. It was everywhere, all around her and was creeping steadily on the ground beside her. She wasn't hurt, and hadn't been hit at the ministry, so she knew it wasn't hers. She turned to Ron, to tell him to help her with Harry, he must have been hurt in the duel, but the words never reached her lips. The whole left side of his body was drenched in his shockingly scarlet blood, his face paler than she had ever seen it before.
A dry sob escaped her throat as she turned up his shirt to see the damage. What had she done? Harry was beside her now, his face pale beneath his dark hair, his expression horrified at the sight before him.
"What happened?" Harry asked, his voice low and worried.
"Splinched." She couldn't say anymore, her voice didn't seem to be working. Ron's arm was bleeding profusely; a mass of flesh was missing. Had she really done this? Had she really caused Ron's Splinching?
"Harry, quickly, in my bag, there's a small bottle labeled 'Essence of Dittany " she broke off, Harry already looking in the small purse. Her voice had wavered, and she hated it, hated the fact that she wasn't in control when she needed it most. Ron's face paled even more as she tried to stem the flow of blood.
She couldn't wouldn't do any spell work and risk injuring him further.
"Quickly!" Ron had already lost so much blood. She watched as he let out a shuddering gasp, his eyes rolling back into his head.
She checked his pulse, frantic at the thought of no, he couldn't there, she felt it there. His pulse was weak, but it was there. Finally, Harry slapped the small bottle of dittany in her hand. "He's fainted," she told him as she tried to unscrew it, but her hand slipped and Ron's blood smeared across the cap.
"Unstopper it for me, Harry, my hands are shaking." She handed it to him, shoving it in his hands, willing him to do it as fast as he could, Ron was losing too much blood. It was all because of her. He was lying in front of her, covered in his own blood; because of her. But he had to be alright, he had to wake up, she just needed to seal the wound, and he would be okay.
Harry had taken the bottle, opened it and now swiftly passed it to her. She took it with shaking hands and as carefully as she could, she put three drops of essence on the open wound. Greenish smoke billowed up as his arm healed. She saw the skin developing over the exposed flesh, and finally breathed a sigh of relief. He was going to be okay.
With shaking hands, she dropped the bottle in the beaded bag, and sighed once more. He was safe; well as safe as they were going to get, anyway.
Harry looked at her, and she knew what he was going to ask before he asked it. How could she tell him that she was the one that did this. The one that had caused Ron to be Splinched, the one who put him in danger.
She took a deep breath, he was going to be okay, he was fine.
The rain was splattering on the canvas of the tent. The silence heavy and menacing underneath it. What was he saying? Why was he saying this, why was he acting this way? She looked at him, saw into his eyes, pleading with him not to do this.
"Leave the Horcrux."
Harry's voice broke the moment, his eyes left hers, filled with an emotion she could not name.
She looked at his neck, and found the thin strand of golden chain. She moved forward to take the Horcrux off of his chest, but he did it first, flinging the locket onto the chair.
"What are you doing?" he asked, his voice cold and unfamiliar. She didn't recognize the voice, but the real question was in his eyes: She knew what he was asking, she saw it clearly: Do you choose me, or him? He couldn't mean that, he couldn't make her choose.
"What do you mean?"
"Are you staying, or what?"
What was he asking her? Where was he going? They were in this together, the three of them always together, he knew that, so why was he trying to leave?
Ron please Ron.
She looked at his face; he had never been good at hiding his emotions, never from her. She saw it all in his face now, the hesitation, then something else, just a flash, but it was there. He hated it here, hated having to wait, hated the hunger, the pain, the disappointment. In that moment, when she saw the hate in his eyes, she knew it wasn't him saying this, it was something else. Something dark and ugly weaving its way into his mind, making him hate his best friend his brother.
He knew her answer before she told him. She saw the resignation, saw the remorse when he knew she wouldn't leave Harry. Her heart hurt when she saw that in his eyes. She loved him, didn't he understand? She couldn't choose between them, Harry was her brother too. He knew that, but right now, he didn't remember, he didn't know or understand and she had to help him understand. She had to make him understand.
"Yes yes, I'm staying, Ron. We said we'd go with Harry, we said we'd help "
Then she saw the anger, ugly and evil, directed towards her, towards Harry.
"I get it," his voice was strained, as though he was trying not to yell. His eyes wouldn't meet hers, and she desperately needed to make him understand. If only he wouldn't listen to the Horcrux, he would listen to sense, to reason. She knew what it said, how it spoke, she remembered from when it rested close to her heart: 'He will never love a simple girl, a Mudblood like you, raised in filth among Muggles! Why would he feel anything for you, when another can offer him so much more?'
She had to tell him that she had heard it too, that she heard it deny her love, but he wouldn't look at her, why couldn't he just look at her?
No, Ron, it's not like that. Please don't make it that way. Please don't go.
She was begging him to understand. Why wouldn't he understand?
"You choose him," The finality in his tone startled her, struck her as if he had done so himself.
He picked up his rucksack, looked at her one last time, his eyes trying to convince her in that split second to leave, to go with him.
He turned away from her, and walked out of the tent.
"Ron, no please come back, come back!"
She had to get him! She couldn't let him leave! He had taken off the locket, he would listen rationally now, he had to come back, he had to. She started forward only to be knocked back by her own shield spell.
He was getting away, she couldn't let him leave! She whipped her wand through the air, quickly removed the spell, and ran forward, through the tent flap and into the pouring rain.
She saw him there, beginning to turn. As he Disapparated, his eyes meeting hers in that last second before he disappeared, they were filled with remorse and defiance and then he was gone.
He left. He had left her. She waited he would come back he had to come back. As she sank to her knees, though, she knew that no matter how much she wished it, he wasn't. He wasn't coming back to her. She had seen it in his eyes. He was never coming back.
She had to tell Harry, he would understand, he knew Ron hadn't meant to say what he had. She ran back in the tent, her clothes sodden, wet hair clinging to her face, tears mingling with droplets of rain. Harry would go with her, he would get Ron back.
"He's g-g-gone! Disapparated!" She looked at Harry pleadingly, but he didn't move, didn't exclaim as he should have. He stood there, his shock at Ron's betrayal showing clearly on his face, his mouth set in a hard line. He wouldn't go with her, he wouldn't get Ron back.
Ron, oh Ron. You left me. Alone.
A sob tore through her throat as she flung herself into a chair. He wasn't coming back, he'd left her. She loved him, and he left her.
A/N: Many thanks to my beta Arnel, who put up with my constant questions and uncertainties with reassuring and comforting words, and without whom this chapter of my very first multi-chapter fic would not have been possible.
I chose to write this story in Hermione's perspective because she seems to be undergoing so many changes in this book. She makes so many discoveries about herself that I wanted to delve a little deeper into her mind and try to decipher how she would feel about the new obstacles and challenges she faces. I hope this is an accurate representation of the Hermione we have all grown to know and love.