Chapter 14 : Waiting
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The italicized phrases I used when Mrs. Weasley and Hermione were at Hogwarts' doors are from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”
Desire and Demise
A hand closed around Hermione’s ankle, and she was ripped from Draco’s stare. She glanced downwards to find Rodolphus Lestrange gripping at her pant leg, trying to pull himself up. The leg-locking spell was wearing off, but he had not regained full control yet. His legs were twitching and flopping around like fish out of water.
“Get off me!” she yelled, trying to pull her leg from his firm grip.
She was about to send a spell in his direction when Rodolphus stopped pulling at her. His hand was still clamped around her leg, but he seemed to have forgotten where he was and what he was doing. Hermione looked down at him to find the man staring at something to the left of his current position, a mixture of horror and disbelief in his dark eyes.
“Bellatrix?” He let go of her leg so suddenly, Hermione felt herself stumbling backwards. “Bellatrix, darling?”
Rodolphus pulled himself over to the dead body of his wife. Leaning over her, he traced a finger around her half-open lips, his eyes moistening as he did so. Hermione was somewhat shocked by this display of affection. She hadn’t expected Death Eaters to have the capacity to love.
“What have you done to her?!” he suddenly screamed. His stare was causing her heart to pound.
It suddenly dawned on the Death Eater that he had a wand; it seemed that this fact had slipped his mind while he had been tugging at Hermione’s pant leg. He quickly murmured the counter curse, and his legs stopped twitching. In no time at all, he was on his feet. Hermione’s heart was racing; she was thoroughly unprepared to defend herself against a Death Eater out for revenge.
“I–it wasn’t me,” Hermione choked out, holding her wand before her with a relatively steady hand. She had to stay calm, and keep a clear head. It was her only chance.
Just then, a hand grabbed hold of her arm, and she was dragged away from Rodolphus. The angered Death Eater let out a loud cry and tried to lunge at her, but she was lost among the crowd before he had the chance.
“I’m going to get you out of here.”
It was Mad-Eye. He was leaning over Hermione, trying to shield her from the spells that were hurtling towards them. Several hit him – his back, his legs, the side of his head – but with no effect. He seemed to be under some sort of Protection Charm, but Hermione did not know how much longer it would last.
“No, I want to stay. I can help, I know it. I got you all into this mess, I’m not just going to -”
“No, Miss Granger. Don’t blame yourself for this. This is beyond you… it’s Voldemort’s doing. This battle, us finding you, none of that was an accident,” he explained, deflecting a spell with the flick of his wand. He continued leading her through the battle and towards the opposite side of the room, which was empty for the time being.
“What do you mean? I thought Harry said Pettigrew -”
“We’ll explain later. Right now, we’re getting you out of here. You’re far too young and inexperienced….” His voice trailed off.
“What about Harry?” Hermione asked, slightly panicked.
“I’m afraid he has to stay. The prophecy, Miss Granger.” That’s all he needed to say. Both he and Hermione knew what the prophecy had stated. “I want you to Apparate into the Hog’s Head. You can do that, can’t you?”
Hermione nodded as Moody stunned an approaching Death Eater.
“Mrs. Weasley will be waiting for you there. She’ll take you back up to the castle. Wait there. We’ll come find you when all of this is over. Your questions will be answered, Miss Granger, I promise you that much,” he explained.
Reluctantly, Hermione agreed. Mad-Eye stepped away from her, and Hermione formed a mental picture of the Hog’s Head. She longed to search the room for one last glimpse at Draco or to give Harry one final wave, but she didn’t have enough time. She had to get out of there before the Death Eaters knew she was leaving. They may try to follow her if she didn’t hurry.
With a deep breath, Hermione turned on the spot, and immediately felt herself being whisked away from the scene, away from the death and destruction, and towards safety. The shouts and jeers faded into a low buzz, and the dark cloaks and determined expressions blurred together into smudges of color. There was no room for fear or uncertainty – she had been given an order, and had to fulfill it without fault. Her life may depend on it.
When her surroundings materialized, she found herself in the disgustingly filthy Hog’s Head. A thick layer of dust coated the floor, the tables, the counter, everything. Hermione turned up her nose at the sight. She moved slowly, trying not to disrupt the settled dust for fear it would fill the air and flood her lungs, ultimately choking her. There seemed to be no one around, but then…
Mrs. Weasley ran towards her and embraced her in a motherly hug.
“Oh, dear, thank goodness you’re all right,” she said.
When she pulled away, Hermione could see a trail of tears streaming down the woman’s wrinkled face. Mrs. Weasley padded at her face with a handkerchief before smiling half-heartedly at Hermione. She was nothing short of terrified.
“Everything’s going to be fine, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said, feeling it necessary to comfort her. “Your family is strong. There isn’t anything they can’t do. I’m sure they’ll all be fine.”
“I just can’t imagine… if anything h-happened to them. And I’m not even t-there to -” Mrs. Weasley let out several loud sobs, and Hermione put a comforting hand on the woman’s shoulder.
When Mrs. Weasley’s tears ceased, she sniffled and, dabbing at her now running nose, gave Hermione a thankful nod. “I suppose I’ll be getting you back up to Hogwarts now,” she said. “No more of this nonsense. It’s no use worrying yet, I should think.”
Hermione nodded and followed Mrs. Weasley out into the moon-lit night, relieved to leave the filthy, dust-covered pub. There was a warm wind blowing through Hogsmeade. It ruffled her hair and brought color to her cheeks. Hermione breathed in the fresh air, greedily filling her lungs again and again until she was satisfied. It was wonderful to be out in the open after weeks and weeks of confinement.
“Follow me closely, dear,” Mrs. Weasley instructed. “I think we’ll be alright, but there’s no way to be entirely sure.”
“Of course,” Hermione replied. She quickened her pace so that she was just a few short steps behind Mrs. Weasley.
They were on Hogwarts’ grounds in no time. The lawn was significantly darker than the village had been, seeing as there were no lanterns to speak of. Every shadow licked frighteningly at Hermione’s feet as she walked across the grass, causing fear to rise within her. Her eyes shot upwards towards the heavens, away from the terrifying blackness all around her.
The stars were out tonight. They were sparkling with such brilliance, Hermione could’ve sworn they were winking at her. She stared up at them with a mixture of emotions, counting as many as she could, making a wish on each as she did so.
Please protect Harry. Her first wish.
Please protect the Weasleys. Her second.
And Draco. Keep him safe. Her third.
A loud scream erupted from the trees, and Hermione stopped dead in her tracks.
“Please, Hermione, we have to keep going,” Mrs. Weasley urged. There was fear in her voice, but also purpose, and Hermione followed obediently.
The pair made it to the castle unharmed. Hermione had resisted several urges to glance back at the Forbidden Forest, and now felt rather content with herself. If her thoughts were pulled back to the battle raging on in the depths of the forest, she would surely be driven mad.
“Alright, now we knock,” Mrs. Weasley explained.
She reached a hand out and held it tentatively in front of the large oak doors that led into Hogwarts castle. She then knocked four times in quick succession and took a step backwards. Hermione caught Mrs. Weasley’s eyes, and she gave a friendly nod.
“Illumine.” A deep voice echoed through the grounds like a drum.
“What is low, raise and support,” Mrs. Weasley responded, annunciating each syllable as though she was speaking purely from memory.
The grand doors opened a crack, and a nervous face poked out. It was Professor Flitwick.
“Oh, Molly, it’s you,” he piped, relieved. “Come in, come in!” He beckoned Mrs. Weasley and Hermione inside and closed the doors quickly behind them.
The Charms Professor cleared his throat. “Headmaster Beaudry has asked that I bring Miss Granger up to the Gryffindor Common Room,” he reported proudly. “Molly, you may return to your family if you wish, or -”
“Yes, I’ll do that, thank you, Filius,” she said in a hurry. “You all right now, Hermione?”
“Yes,” Hermione responded. “Thank you, Mrs. Weasley.”
The two embraced shortly. Hermione put her mouth close to the woman’s ear, and whispered, “I’ll see you and your family later, I’m sure.” It was only a short, spoken assertion of hope, but it meant the world to Mrs. Weasley.
The red-haired woman smiled, her eyes tearing slightly. She waved shortly and walked purposefully out into the night. Once she was outside, Professor Flitwick waved his wand and the doors bolted themselves tightly.
“Now, up to Gryffindor Tower, Miss Granger,” Professor Flitwick stated, setting off towards the marble staircase with Hermione in tow.
Two red-haired blurs came flying at Hermione. She had barely gotten through the portrait hole, and already the air was being squeezed from her lungs in a colossal hug.
“How are you?” “Where were you?” “Are you hurt?” “Did you see Harry?” “What’s going on?” “Mum sent us an owl saying you were coming up!” “How did you get back?”
Questions were hurtled at her as quickly as a speeding train, and Hermione put her hands up in an attempt to stop them. “It’s good to see you both, too,” she mumbled, somewhere in between aggravated and elated.
“Come sit by the fire with us,” Ginny suggested, moving towards the hearth and sitting upon the rug.
Ron was smiling broadly at Hermione, his eyes positively gleaming. “I’m so happy you’re alive,” he told her. And just like that, all hard feelings were forgotten.
Hermione and Ron joined Ginny before the crackling fire, and Hermione told them everything. She told them about the night she had been captured, and why she had been captured in the first place – how they had used her as a means to get information about Harry’s whereabouts. She told them about Professor Thorne’s untimely end, and about the battle that had broken out amongst the somber trees of the Forbidden Forest. And lastly she told them about Bellatrix Lesrange’s demise. The only bit she left out were the feelings she still harbored for Draco. This was more for Ron’s sake than her own; she didn’t want him angry at her again.
“You’re so brave,” Ginny noted when Hermione had finished. Her eyes were wide and her jaw hung open slightly.
“Brave? She’s a bloody hero!” Ron exclaimed. He hugged her tightly to him. Hermione didn’t resist.
“All that time… not knowing if you were going to live or die. I don’t know if I’d’ve kept sane,” Ginny admitted.
“Nonsense,” Hermione responded, beaming at Ginny. “You’re far braver than I am, Ginny.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Ginny said, although she couldn’t hide the proud glimmer in her eye.
“I wonder why they killed Professor Thorne,” Ron wondered aloud.
“He wasn’t the nicest man, but he certainly didn’t deserve that. I mean, he was decent enough,” Ginny mentioned, scratching the tip of her nose delicately.
“I dunno,” Hermione responded. It was only part-truth. She had an inkling as to why he had been killed, and it involved scaring Draco into action. He’d said that Professor Thorne was something of a second father to him. If the Death Eaters wanted to get anything done, they’d have to take something from him… as a preview of the horrors they could bring if he didn’t follow orders.
“And what about Harry?” Ron interrupted.
“Harry!” Ginny shrieked, suddenly remembering that he was fighting for his life as they spoke. “Was You-Know-Who there? Was Harry okay when you left? Oh!” The small girl put her face into her hands.
“I didn’t see Voldemort,” Hermione admitted. Both Weasley’s squirmed uncomfortably. “But we all know he’s there. He’s just waiting, but for what, I’m not sure.” The fear that had since left her returned in full force. She felt it rush through her veins like a poison.
Ron moved down to Ginny’s level and took his sister in his arms. He rocked her back and forth until she was somewhat calmed.
“I just don’t know what I’d do if he -. What if I never got to tell him how I feel?” Ginny asked no one in particular, tears forming in her blue eyes.
“I know how you feel,” Ron mumbled sadly, his eyes flitting up to Hermione. Hermione looked away.
“No you don’t, Ron. I love him.” Her voice was so soft, it was like a ghost.
“You’ll be able to tell him in a couple hours time,” Hermione told her. She wasn’t entirely sure it was true, but if she could get Ginny to believe, it would be true. If only for a while.
“Do you reckon Harry and the Order got rid of all the Horcruxes?” Ron asked suddenly.
“You know, I think they might’ve,” Hermione voiced. “I was thinking about that while I was fighting. More and more Death Eaters were showing up, but Voldemort wasn’t there. Maybe he’s scared. Maybe he knows his Horcruxes are gone, and is waiting until the last minute so that he won’t risk dying before he can get to Harry.”
“What a wonderful man – err, thing,” Ron intoned. “Sending out his Death Eaters to die for him.”
“No one ever said You-Know-Who was a kind soul, Ron,” Ginny pointed out, sniffling.
“Still.” Ron returned to the couch, sitting beside Hermione.
“Well, one good thing has come from tonight already,” Ginny said, trying to bring a ray of hope to the seemingly dismal circumstances.
“Hermione’s alive,” Ron stated firmly.
“Well, that,” Ginny agreed, “and Bellatrix Lestrange is finally dead.”
“Of course!” Ron exclaimed. “And who does Sirius Black have to thank for his long-awaited vengeance?”
“Come on, Hermione. We’ll toast to their name,” Ron suggested, holding an imaginary mug in his hand.
Both Ron’s and Ginny’s eyes were fixed expectantly on Hermione. She couldn’t hide the truth from them any longer. They had the right to know.
“Draco Malfoy,” she said finally.
“Malfoy?” Ron’s hand dropped from the air.
“No,” Ron murmured. “He was on their side. He was -”
“No, Ron,” Hermione responded, slightly hurt. “He was on our side all along. And he never meant to hurt me. He – he cared about me.”
“Hermione.” It was Ginny. Her gaze was unbelieving.
“It’s the truth,” she responded quietly. “And I don’t want to know what you’ve got to say about it, because I cared about him too. I’m sorry I lied to you, Ron, but I knew you wouldn’t approve. You didn’t know him like I did.”
Ron shook his head. “Please, let’s just forget it ever happened.”
“That’s not going to happen and you know it. Draco Malfoy is on our side, and he saved my life. He’s going to be a part of my life now, and whether he’s a friend or… more than a friend, you’re going to have to learn to accept him.”
Ron’s lips were molded into a grimace. “Easier said than done,” he grumbled, crossing his arms in defiance.
“Absolutely not! I know he saved your life, but it doesn’t mean -”
“Yes, it does mean he’s changed,” Hermione countered.
“And keep your voice down. Everyone’s sleeping,” Ginny warned, eyeing the staircase to see if anyone had heard and was coming down to see what had caused the ruckus.
With a deep sigh, Ron nodded reluctantly. “Fine,” he agreed. “I just don’t want you mad at me again, Hermione.”
“I don’t want that either,” Hermione responded, putting a gentle hand on his arm.
With that settled, the three Gryffindors continued their discussion. They talked late into the night, both to share the information they knew and to keep themselves distracted from the doubt that had lodged itself deep within them. They had no way of knowing what was happening, or if their loved ones were safe. It was a terrible thought, that Harry or one of the Weasleys was dead or dying. But together they could comfort each other, and wait. That’s all they could do.
Author’s Note: After this chapter, there will be two more, and there will also be an epilogue. If you’ve liked this story thus far, please check back for those updates as well as the sequel. I’ve decided upon a name – Unrighteous.
Thanks for all the support! I’m so happy to hear from all my readers. –group hug- (;
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