The Burrow had grown exponentially ever since the Final Battle at Hogwarts. The cracked walls, loose floorboards, broken banisters and aging furniture had all been replaced while the Weasleys had added an additional story at the top and enlarged their basement below. The pale walls were now painted in beautiful cream colours and adorned with beautiful wooden floor. Thought it had been through so much renovation, Hermione still saw the house the same way she did when she first arrived here during Hogwarts. She stepped into the tiny living room where the evening light had placed a golden hue on the side of the walls.
Hermione jumped at the sound of Ginny calling her from behind. “Hermione!” she called again and this time Hermione turned around to see her red-headed friend jumping down the stairs.
“How was the meeting?” she asked with concern.
Hermione didn’t know how to respond, or whether she should say anything at all. She walked over to the stairs and peered quickly up to the second story where no one stood on the empty landing. She then turned back to Ginny and beckoned her to the kitchen with a stern look on her face.
“Hermione, wha-” Ginny started but was silenced by Hermione.
“Not here,” she whispered and ushered Ginny into the tiny kitchen. Though the house itself had changed a lot, the Weasleys’ kitchen remained its old self with the tarnished floorboards and peeling paint. Hermione pushed Ginny through the dancing mops and hopping brooms which were trying to clean the floor, and sat her down on one of the wooden chairs around the dining table.
“Are you alright, Hermione?” Ginny asked worriedly. Hermione nodded her head quickly and tiptoed back to the entrance of the kitchen where she once again checked the stairs to see that it was empty. After ensuring that no one was there, she returned and on her way back, knocked over a two teacups and a bowl of fruit.
“Sorry,” Hermione muttered clumsily to no one in particular and sat herself back down opposite Ginny.
“What’s going on?” Ginny asked, as she stood up and headed towards the stove.
“What are you doing?” Hermione said as she stood up too.
“No, no, sit back down,” Ginny said casually. “I’m getting us some tea.”
“Oh,” Hermione said shortly. “Right.”
Ginny took out a large metal pot and placed it on top of the stove, adding two cups of water. She then took out her wand and muttered a few words under her breath, igniting the stove and allowing the water to gently boil.
“So, are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Ginny asked again as she reached for some tea leaves on top of the fridge.
Hermione wasn’t paying attention as she craned her neck behind the doorway to check if the stairwell was empty again.
“There’s no one there, for Merlin’s sake, Hermione!” Ginny said. “Who are you looking for?”
Hermione looked back at Ginny with a dull expression and sighed. “Ron,” she said. “He’s not home, right?”
Ginny dropped a pinch of tea leaves into the boiling water and shook her head. “He left for work a few hours ago, actually,” Ginny said. “Why?”
“Because I don’t want him to hear what I’m about to tell you,” Hermione said sombrely. She reached for a jar on top of the wooden table and opened the lid only to find that it was empty.
“Hungry?” Ginny asked her, reaching into one of the cabinets and taking out a yellow jar. She removed the lid and placed it gingerly onto the table, offering it to Hermione.
“Very,” Hermione said tiredly as she reached into the jar and pulled out a rice cake. She sighed once again and began to chew on it absentmindedly as Ginny poured out the tea into two green mugs, dropping a lump of sugar into each one.
“Alright,” Ginny said firmly as she sat down and handed Hermione one of the green mugs. “What’s going on?”
Hermione took a sip of the tea and felt a gentle warmth spread throughout her body that seemed to vanish the instant it came. Her eyes began to tear very slightly as she gathered herself to divulge the happenings of today’s meeting. “Do you remember the owl I got two weeks ago?” Hermione asked Ginny carefully.
Ginny furrowed her brow and shook her head. “No, I do- oh wait, do you mean the one from Australia?”
Hermione nodded. “The one that said that Wendell and Monica Wilkins had disappeared without a trace.”
“Yeah, I remember that one,” Ginny said, reaching for a rice cake too.
“They fo-” Hermione choked slightly and held back her tears. “They…found my parents.”
“Really?” Ginny said, at first sounding ecstatic but then confused after seeing Hermione’s tears. “But…but that’s good news, Hermione!”
Hermione wiped her tears carelessly on her sleeve and took another sip of the tea, relishing in another instant of warmth. Ginny still didn’t fully understand what was going on but reached over and gently pat her friend’s hand.
“What happened?” she asked softly. “Are they alright?”
Hermione shook her head and lay her head down on the table, unable to contain her grief. “They’re dead,” she breathed.
Ginny gasped and placed her hands over her mouth as Hermione sobbed against the wooden table. “I’m…I’m so sorry, Hermione!” Ginny whispered to her friend. “How…how could this have happened?”
Hermione looked up and wiped away the salty tears as they trickled down towards her mouth. Her eyes had lost all grief but instead contained hatred – one so powerful that Ginny felt almost afraid. “Rodolphus Lestrange,” she said bitterly.
“Lest- wait,” Ginny said. “You mean Bellatrix Lestrange’s husband?”
Hermione nodded. “He found his way down to Australia after the Azkaban breakout last year,” she said. “He went on a killing spree of muggles.”
“That loser is the scum living beneath dirtiest of fungus,” Ginny swore.
“He’s still on the loose,” Hermione said with difficulty as she reached over to wipe a fresh batch of tears streaming down her face.
“Don’t worry about it, Hermione,” Ginny said calmingly. “Cry it out if you need to.”
Hermione nodded and rested her head on the table, on top of her arms. She hadn’t gotten a chance to really let the full effects of her parents’ deaths get to her back at the Ministry but now, in silence, with her friend, she could feel the pain and grief overwhelm her. She sobbed uncontrollably on her arm and found herself reminiscing about life with her parents and what it had been like and the millions of thing she would miss. She appreciated Ginny just staying there with her, without uttering a single word or doing anything. The presence of someone else in the room made her feel like she wasn’t totally alone in this world despite what she felt like inside.
After a few minutes of silent grief, Hermione heard a thud at the door and a creaking sound, indicating that it was opened. Hermione immediately sat up and wiped her eyes as fast as she could, using her sleeve once again which now had a stain on its green fabric. Ginny turned towards the entrance of the kitchen where she heard footsteps approaching from a distance.
“I’m going to see who it is,” Ginny said softly. “Just sit tight.”
Hermione grabbed Ginny’s hand and stopped her from leaving. “Don’t tell Ron!” Hermione pleaded. “Make whatever excuse you can but you can’t let him see me like this.”
“Wha-?” Ginny asked confused.
!” Hermione begged.
Ginny nodded quickly and headed out the door. Hermione watched as Ginny’s shadow turned the corner and began to speak. “Ron, is that you?” she called out.
There was no reply.
“Ron?” Ginny asked again. “Ro- Oh Harry it’s you!”
Hermione sighed with relief as Ginny greeted Harry happily. She reached over to the cup of tea which had provided her with ample comfort and took another sip, feeling that similar sensation tingle her.
“Why did you think I was Ron?” Hermione heard Harry ask Ginny.
“It’s nothing,” Ginny said quickly.
Hermione put down the green mug beside her half eaten rice cake and call out to Ginny. “It’s alright, Ginny!” she said. “You and Harry can come in here!”
“Is that Hermione?” she heard Harry ask.
“Of course it is,” Ginny said.
Hermione saw their shadows approach the kitchen entrance and heard their footsteps get louder. Harry and Ginny came into view as they entered the tiny room and Ginny beckoned him to take a seat.
“Hermione, what’s going on?” Harry asked, as he clumsily made his way over through the mops and brooms and took a seat beside her. He had removed his jacket and was wearing dark black jeans with a bottle green t-shirt that seemed to compliment his eyes.
“What’s with all this secrecy?” he asked, this time, looking at Hermione. “Th- wait, Hermione? Are you crying?”
Hermione looked over towards one of the glass cabinets and saw her expression reflected faintly in it. Her eyes had swollen exponentially and the redness beneath them seemed to have gotten even redder. She grabbed a tissue from the table and wiped her face dry and then looked back at Harry.
“I’m alright,” she said.
Ginny poured out another cup of tea from the pot and placed it in front of Harry. “Don’t lie to me,” Harry said and placed his hand on Hermione’s.
Ginny sat down on the seat opposite them and gave Hermione a sympathetic expression. Hermione, in turn, nodded and dabbed her eyes again roughly. “Do you want me to tell him?” Ginny asked.
Hermione nodded slowly and Harry turned to Ginny. “Alright, I’m getting freaked out,” Harry said. “What happened?”
“They found Hermione’s parents,” Ginny said slowly.
“That’s great!” Harry said happily. “I…I still don’t understand the tears though.”
“They found their bodies,” Ginny corrected herself, this time, holding back a few tears herself.
“Oh no!” Harry gasped. “Oh Hermione!”
He looked over at her and gave her a hug, allowing her to sob on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry,” he said kindly. “How did it happen?”
Hermione took a deep breath and looked back at Ginny, finding it hard to speak right now. “Rodolphus Lestrange killed them,” Ginny said solemnly. “He’s still on the loose.”
“I wish there was something I could for you,” Harry said, still clinging onto a sobbing Hermione.
“There’s more,” Hermione whispered. She sat back up and wiped her eyes for the last time, she hoped. She gathered herself and looked back at her reflection in the glass. She had to be strong.
“More?” Ginny asked, sipping her tea.
Hermione nodded. “Rodolphus Lestrange is looking for me.”
The bombshell seemed to hit both Harry and Ginny hard on their heads as they both gaped in shock.
“Looking for you?” Harry repeated. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that he’s out to kill me,” Hermione said bluntly.
“W...w…is…I don’t understand!” Ginny gasped. “Wh…why?”
“It’s because of Bellatrix, isn’t it?” Harry asked.
Hermione pushed back a few stray hairs that were hanging in front of her face and nodded gravely. “He wants revenge.”
“Is that why he murdered your parents?” Ginny asked.
“No,” Hermione said. “He didn’t…he didn’t know they were my parents.”
Harry’s expression was grave and serious while Ginny’s was disheartened and shocked. Hermione didn’t know how they’d react to finding out what the next few months had in store for her so she braced herself and just blurted it out.
“The Ministry wants to offer me protection.”
Ginny coughed on her tea and looked incredulously at Hermione. “What…what do you mean?”
“They want me to move…to another location,” Hermione said slowly. “Listen, do you have any more of these rice cakes?”
Ginny wasn’t sure whether to be surprised or afraid of Hermione’s random question but chose to act confused. “Um…yeah…sure.”
She got up and looked back into the cabinet, this time, emerging with a white jar with blue flowers painted around the top. “Here you go,” she said, removing the lid and handing a rice cake to Hermione.
“What other location?” Harry asked.
Hermione took a deep breath. “It’s…it’s supposed to be highly protected, you know, and…and very hard to locate.”
“Where?” Harry asked again, raising his eyebrow.
“There are many charms around it too,” Hermione said. She was stalling but she, herself, didn’t know why. She was secretly hoping that some miraculous creature would fall from the sky and tell her that this was all a dream. She’d wake up in a few minutes and be happy to be back in her own room with her books and find her parents.
“Hermione, where is this place?” Harry said, now getting impatient. “Do you know, Ginny?”
Ginny shook her head. “I’ve no idea. Hermione, please tell us.”
Hermione spent one last second hoping to wake up and then sighed hopelessly. “Malfoy Manor,” she said.
Ginny knocked over her cup of tea while Harry’s jaw dropped to the floor. Hermione couldn’t help but feel slightly amused at this sudden comical expression that had befallen the both of them. Ginny didn’t even notice the tea spilling over the table as she gaped at her confused and slightly bemused friend.
“Malfoy…Malfoy Manor?” Harry repeated. “ the
“How many other Malfoy Manors do we know of?” Hermione asked tetchily.
“So…with…with Draco Malfoy
?” Ginny asked.
Hermione nodded glumly. “The one and only.”
“Now I understand why you didn’t want Ron to hear about it,” Ginny said steadily, reaching over to the counter and flicking her wand, causing a piece of cloth to fly over and begin to dry up the spill of tea.
“I don’t know how I’m going to tell him,” Hermione said, burying her face in her hands.
“This is rubbish, Hermione!” Harry protested. “You’re safer here with us! We’ll protect you!”
Hermione had been expecting these protests from everyone and so didn’t feel surprised when she saw the look of anger in Harry’s face. “We…we all have our own lives, Harry,” Hermione began. “I don’t want you to endanger yours and I don’t want Ron to endanger his.”
“That’s total nonsense!” Ginny interjected. “Mum and Dad would never agree to this!”
“Would they agree to having their only granddaughter in danger while I live with you?” Hermione added.
Though it was true that most of the Weasleys had grown up and moved out, Ginny, Bill, Fleur and Victoire still lived at the Burrow with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Due to Bill’s busy work schedule, he wasn’t home much and Fleur had needed some help with the baby and it was agreed upon that they would move back in here until Bill had completed his current large project.
“I know what I’m doing,” Hermione said slowly after a while. “I know it’s a…a difficult situation but Malfoy is an auror and he’s back on the good side.”
“Yeah, as far as we know,” Harry muttered.
It was the Easter Break and everyone had once again reconvened to spend a week at the Burrow. It was a usual tradition that around special holidays everyone would gather back for a few days or weeks and stay at the Burrow – this was one of those holidays. Hermione, despite being 27 years old, still liked to be back at the Burrow with her friends rather than at home, in a lonely London apartment.
“What about that tiny, minute, insignificant detail that you’re going out with Ron?” Ginny asked. The cloth had finished cleaning up the spill and so Ginny flicked her wand again and it flew over and lay itself down in the sink.
“He’ll have to deal with it,” Hermione said sharply. “But I am afraid of telling him.”
“Would it help if we were there?” Harry asked.
Hermione nodded and reached for her cup again. “We’ll need someone there to restrain him from punching the wall.”
Harry smiled slightly while Ginny too nodded with an amused expression on her face. As she opened her mouth to say something, she heard the front door click and the brass handle turn, indicating that someone had entered.
“Is anyone home?” Ron’s voice came from outside. Hermione froze and looked over quickly at Harry and Ginny, to whom she nodded.
“We’re in here!” Harry called out, as he gave Hermione a reassuring nod and stood up to go see where Ron was. Ron’s shadow got closer to the entrance and within a few seconds, he came into view.
“Hermione!” he said happily. “I didn’t think you’d be back so soon from your meeting!”
“It was a short meeting,” Hermione said quietly. “Do you want something to eat?”
Ron smiled and nodded eagerly. “I’m starving – it’s bloody windy out there by the way.”
“Oh, really?” Hermione said. “When I got back there was just a light breeze.”
“I know, that’s what I thought too but then when I was heading back, there were huge gusts of wind blowing from all directions.”
“Is it raining too?” Hermione asked, offering Ron a rice cake which he happily took.
“Kind of light drizzling, actually,” Ron said. “Nothing too serious.”
All this while, Harry and Ginny were staring incredulously at their two friends. “Why on earth are you talking about the weather?” Ginny cried after a while. “There are more important issues to be dealt with!”
Ron turned to Ginny with a confused expression but then look back at Hermione as Ginny nodded in her direction. “What important issues?”
“They found my parents’ bodies,” Hermione said quickly. In her experiences of letting the news out to everyone, she’d come to realize that the faster she said it, the less it hurt – much like a band aid which hurts less the faster you rip it off. She found herself holding back a few tears as Ron went over and hugged her.
“I’m so sorry, ‘Mione,” he said and placed a kiss on her forehead. “I…w…how did it happen?”
“It’s alright, Ron,” Hermione said, as Ron sat back down. “It…it was some loose death eater who got to them.”
She met Ginny’s eyes briefly for a second and then quickly looked away. “But the Ministry wants me to be placed in a protection program just in case I’m in danger.”
“What?!” Ron burst out. “In danger?”
“It’s just a precaution,” Hermione reassured him. “No one’s really after me but they…they want to be sure until they’ve caught the killers.”
Hermione wiped her eyes and looked at the dumfounded expressions on Harry and Ginny’s faces. She knew they would disapprove of her lying to Ron but it was the only way – the only way that she was sure Ron would let her go without fighting or protesting. If he had known she was in real danger from a cold blooded killer, he would have endangered himself and refused to let her go.
“I can’t believe this!” Ron said. “Why would someone be after you?”
“Because I’m a muggle,” Hermione said, once again she avoided both Harry and Ginny’s eye. “Ron, listen. I don’t want you to feel upset or afraid for me. This whole thing is just a stupid protocol that the Ministry has to follow. I’ll stay with an auror for a few weeks and then come back, completely unharmed.”
“Harry and I are aurors too,” Ron said. “Why can’t you just stay here?”
,” Hermione pleaded. “Just…just let me go for a few weeks. You can come and see me whenever you want and…and it’ll all be over before you know it.”
“Where…where is this place?” Ron said shakily.
“It’s very protected and I’ve been told that it’s one of the most difficult buildings in London to locate,” Hermione said shiftily.
“So it’s in London then?” Ron confirmed.
“Yes, of course,” Hermione said.
“Where in London?” Ron asked.
“Well, you know, since it’s so protected no one really
knows where it is,” Hermione muttered.
“Doesn’t it have a name? Or…or some sort of title?”
“Just tell him,” Ginny sighed, giving Hermione an encouraging nod. Hermione looked to Harry who nodded too and gave her a weak smile.
“Malfoy Manor,” Hermione blurted out.
Usually, in a mode of surprise, one would remain stationary or completely frozen but Ron Weasley was not like that. The moment he heard the words ‘Malfoy’ come out of his girlfriend’s mouth he sprung up off his seat and turned red in the face.
“Malfoy…Malfoy Manor?!” he repeated.
Hermione too got up and tried to calm him down. “Yes, Ron but please trust me, I’ll be alright.”
“Malfoy is going to be watching over you for the next few weeks?!” he said.
“Just calm down, mate,” Harry said, placing his hand on Ron’s shoulder.
“Of course I won’t!” Ron yelled. “My girlfriend is about to move in with a death eater! This kind of situation calls for anything but calm!”
“We’re not moving in,” Hermione said bitterly. “And he’s not a death eater.”
“This is for Hermione’s own safety!” Ginny told Ron. “Don’t you want her to be safe, Ron?”
“Of course I do! But that prat Malfoy won’t take a curse for anyone! I can protect you better than he can!”
“I know you can, Ron,” Hermione reassured him. “I just need you to understand that I can’t stay with you and endanger you and the rest of your family.”
“We can move away!” Ron bellowed. “We can move to another city for all I care!”
“Ron, please,” Hermione pleaded. “I promise you that everything will be alright.”
Some colour had begun to drain from Ron’s red face as Hermione placed her hand on his cheek and kissed him. “I promise you,” she said faintly.
He had calmed down a bit more as she held on to both of his hands and looked at his beautiful dark eyes. “I am safe and there’s really no danger to me. This is just the Ministry’s stupid protocol that I have to follow – everything will be alright. Do you trust me?”
Ron stood steady for a moment and then nodded slowly. “I do,” he said.
“Then trust me to know what I’m doing,” she said.
“And you promise everything will be alright?” Ron asked, sounding very childish and very serious at the same time.
Hermione nodded and kissed him once again. “I promise.”
Ron sighed very softly. “Then go.” Relief swept over Hermione as she hugged Ron gently and smiled at his overprotective expression.
“That took less effort than we thought!” Ginny said happily and began to clear the table of all the rice cakes and jars.
“When are you leaving?” Harry asked her.
“The Ministry wants me to move as soon as possible,” Hermione said. “I told them that the earliest I could leave was tomorrow afternoon.”
“Alright,” Ron said with some difficulty.
“Ron and I will go get you a trunk from upstairs,” Harry said, looking at Ginny as Ron left the kitchen. “And maybe, Ginny, you can…can talk to Hermione.”
Ginny nodded as Harry left with Ron and then turned back to Hermione. “What was that all about?” Hermione asked.
“Harry and I both want to know why you didn’t tell Ron.”
“Tell him what?”
“That you’re in serious danger. He just thinks this is some stupid Ministry screw up.”
Hermione took the three mugs of tea from the table and walked over to the sink and began washing them. “And that’s how it’s going to be,” Hermione said. “I don’t want him worrying for me.”
“And what if Rodolphus Lestrange finds you?” Ginny asked.
“They have aurors all over the world looking for him – I’m sure they’ll find him before he finds me.”
“I hope so,” Ginny said worriedly.
As Hermione finished washing the cups, she placed them by the side and turned when she heard a knock on the front door.
“I’ll get that,” Hermione said as she dried her hands on a towel and walked outside into the living room. As she made her way through the maze of shelves filled with photos, she looked back up the stairs to see where Ron and Harry had gotten too.
She finally reached the front door and turned the brass handle which felt cold against her warm skin. She opened the door which made a slight creaking noise as it sprung forward. It took her a few minutes to completely recognize who was standing at the door but the first thing that she registered was that smirk that always seemed to surface when he spoke to her.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed this chapter! I know it's long but I had a lot to get through :) Please leave me a review to let me know what you liked/disliked about it! They are really encouraging and helpful!