Ron couldn’t sleep long. He awoke before dawn. Curled up on his shoulder, her hair spread across his chest, Ron drank in the beautiful sight of his Hermione. She looked peaceful and content. And I'm the reason for that. Ron thought, with a mischievous and somewhat prideful smile. She was right. We did need this.
For several minutes, he struggled with the idea of simply lying in bed with the amazing witch that had now become the center of his world. Eventually, it was the nightmarish thought of the protective spells failing and the two of them being stumbled upon, completely vulnerable, that ended the internal debate. The mere thought of Greyback getting his hands on Hermione again made him shudder and then seethe. I'll gut that bloody cur long before he ever gets another chance to hurt her.
As he dressed, he was careful not to disturb her as she slept. The numerous aches and pains he felt, though soothed by their lovemaking, made it difficult to move.
Hermione woke not much later; exhausted as she was, sleep did not seem safe to her either. Dressing quickly, Hermione found Ron digging through the kitchen drawers. The teapot was on the stove.
“Good morning, love,” she said as she pulled him into a sultry embrace and, standing on tiptoe, kissed him. He smiled down at her and then sought out her lips once more, letting this second kiss linger. He was again tempted to drag her back to the bedroom and ignore the world outside. But he knew he couldn’t. Reluctantly, he released her.
“What are you looking for, food?” she asked teasingly.
“Wireless,” he said with a slight smile, “We need to get some news. Here it is.”
He set it up, but it brought only static.
“We need a scanning function on this thing,” Hermione quipped.
“A scanning, what?”
“Something muggles use on their wireless sets. Here.” With a flick of her wand, the tuning dial began to turn slowly on its own. “Should have thought of doing this before. What was the last password for . . .” She couldn’t bring herself to say “Potterwatch.”
Pulling her to him, Ron whispered, “Mad-Eye.” He held her for a moment. “‘Mione, we really have to . . .”
“I know.” Hermione placed another charm on the wireless that would repeat the password at regular intervals; the two then sat at the kitchen table. Ron summoned the teapot as Hermione dug some food salvaged from Shell Cottage out of her bag.
Ron asked the question that had been foremost on his mind since the Battle. “‘Mione, when I saw Bellatrix attack you, I . . .” This time it was Ron who was having difficulty mastering his emotions. His voice catching, he managed to finish, “What happened?”
Hermione grabbed his hand and peered into his watery blue eyes. “It’s okay, love.” After a pause, she launched into a very subdued version of lecture mode. “I think that when Harry took the killing curse from her, something like the magic that protected him from You-Know-Who the first time must have been triggered, protecting us.” She fought back the tears to finish the thought.
“He saved you again,” Ron said, with a tearful smile . . . “But it seemed like it only affected Bellatrix’s magic.”
“Yes. That protection only worked for us against her.” Taking a deep breath, she spoke what had been lingering, darkly, in the back of her mind ever since the Battle. “I think, somehow, Harry went into the woods on Dumbledore’s directions. Dumbledore was counting on it being You-Know-Who that would be the one to . . .” she couldn’t bring herself to finish.
“Dumbledore sent Harry to die?!” Ron was beside himself with anger.
“Oh gods, Ron, no. I think Dumbledore planned on the protective magic we saw to be directed at You-Know-Who, not Bellatrix; if Dumbledore was right it may have even kept Harry from . . .” Again, she couldn’t say the words.
“If that was Dumbledore’s plan, it was bollocks!” Ron said, nearly shaking with rage. He took a deep breath and tried to focus. “We’re going to need a better plan than that.”
She continued. “I think Harry was the master of the Elder Wand.”
Ron was silent a moment. “Malfoy. Harry disarmed Malfoy!”
Hermione nodded. Despite the grim nature of the topic, she couldn't help but be proud and a little surprised that Ron had made the connection so quickly. He's changed, she thought, ever since he got us into the Chamber of Secrets, he's been different; then, out loud: “And, remember, Harry told us that Malfoy had cast Expelliarmus before Snape . . .”
“Bloody hell!” Ron interrupted.
“Hagrid said he saw sparks fly from the Elder Wand after You-Know-Who took Malfoy’s wand. I think that’s when he felt the Elder Wand finally let him claim it as its true master. Then he began to fear that there might be too many other things he didn’t know. That’s why he forced himself to enter Harry’s mind.” Hermione continued, careful not to mention Voldemort by name, “He knows that Harry wasn’t the only one in on his secret about the Horcruxes. With everyone else gone,” she tried to keep her voice steady, “we’ll be his only priority.”
Ron picked up the thread, “He knows about the Hallows, he probably has the cloak, he found out about the wands. Whatever memories Snape gave to Harry, he knows those too. Merlin, Hermione! This is bad.” After a pause, realization began to dawn on his face. Judging from the look Hermione gave him, it seemed that she’d reached the same conclusion not long before he did. “If Harry was right about the snitch, You-Know-Who could have the resurrection stone now.”
“We have to assume the worst. He has it,” Hermione said with conviction.
“What could he do with it?”
Hermione contemplated the question. “Inferi,” she said. “He might raise an army of Inferi.”
“Merlin’s Pants! ‘Mione, how long will it take him?”
“Inferi aren’t easy to create; I read up on them after what happened to Harry in the cave.” Again, there was a look of pain in her eyes when she mentioned Harry’s name. “We might have some time before that becomes a real concern.” She sounded more hopeful than she was.
They fell silent again. “Dumbledore told Harry that You-Know-Who’s soul had become unstable; he wouldn’t make any more Horcruxes then, would he, even though he knows that we know?” Ron asked.
“No. I don’t think he’d risk it. So there should only be Nagini left.”
“Then we’ll have to find a way to get to Nagini. At least that will make him mortal.”
Hermione understood the dire implications of what Ron was saying. If they could destroy Nagini, they wouldn’t likely survive long enough to finish Voldemort. However, it would leave him vulnerable so that, someday, someone else could finish the job.
The wireless dial stopped spinning and a voice came out of the gloom. They both realized they were expecting to hear Lee Jordan and were saddened when they remembered that he had died at the Battle of Hogwarts. They didn’t recognize the voice on the airwaves.
The unknown wizard got straight to the point; the days of jocularity were long gone. His tone betrayed a heavy, defeated heart.
“If you’re listening, just know that I’m a friend of River’s. I promised him that I’d do this if the worst ever happened. We’ve managed to confirm some things with the few friends we still have left in Hogsmeade. What you’ve been reading in the Prophet is true . . . The Chosen One is dead.” With that, the voice on the wireless faltered. It was some time before he could continue.
“The list of the fallen . . . is too long for me to read. My time is short. As you know, He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named has declared himself publicly. Other wizarding governments seem paralyzed by the news. He hasn’t openly taken over the muggle government yet, presumably because all of his attention is directed elsewhere. It’s rumored that Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger managed to escape the Battle. I can only pray that’s true. It seems, at least, that he thinks they’re still on the run.”
Hermione said, “That means Nagini will likely be at the ministry, surrounded by Merlin knows what kind of protection.” They shared a look. At least the ministry was a place they had had experience breaking into.
The wireless had moved on to another topic. “All portkeys are under his control, leaving Apparation as the only option left to leave the country. However, as difficult and dangerous as that kind of Apparation is, it’s now become impossible. Reports have come in that a new kind of ward has been set up around the British Isles. It’s being called ‘The Dark Lord’s Teeth.’ Leaving the country by magical means just isn’t possible now.”
“Hundreds . . .” the voice broke again, a cough, as he tried to maintain control. “Hundreds have tried to Disapparate across the channel. Most have tried to leave near Dover, which seems to be the only place in which the wards don’t extend into the sea.” Then the anguish in his voice deepened. “I can’t describe the scene there, other than to say that the death toll is horrendous.”
“Bloody Elder Wand! He’s locked us in!” Ron exclaimed.
Hermione shuddered at the picture that came to mind of the carnage at Dover. “At least it hasn’t affected Apparition within the country,” she said, returning her attention to the wireless.
“That area near Dover has been surrounded by anti-muggle charms. The bodies are unburied; apparently it’s a message from him to those who would try to escape. Leaving by other means does not seem advisable either. Those who’ve tried to fly out can’t penetrate the barrier. Although muggles and their machines don’t seem to be affected by it, those of us who have tried to use muggle transportation out of the country have suffered gruesome ends.”
The announcer took a deep breath, “You all need to know, anyone who’s had any connection to those who were at the Battle has been hunted down without mercy. Protect your loved ones, for it seems that he’s trying to erase the very memory of any resistance. I’m going to sign off now. If any of us are left to hear this . . . say a prayer for those of us who aren’t.”
Ron and Hermione starred at each other in utter horror.
“Teddy!” Hermione gasped.
AN: I do not own Harry Potter. The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.