Ron looked like he was going to explode. His ears were as red as his hair and he looked around, as if he was searching for something – or someone – to take out his anger on. Harry tried to place a hand on his shoulder to calm him down, but he quickly removed it when he saw Ron reaching for his wand.
“Ron, I know that it might come as a shock, but it is Hermione we’re talking about”, Ginny said. “She’s not going to do anything crazy. She just went to Australia to find her parents.”
“She’s not going to do anything crazy? Ginny, do you realize that this is the same person who suggested we’d ride on the back of a dragon to escape from Gringotts, the bank that we had just broken into?” When no one responded Ron reached out his hand with a determined look on his face. “Let me see the letter.”
Harry gave it to him and waited in silence as he read it.
“Please tell…”, mumbled Ron while his face expression went from angry to blank. He cleared his throat and said, in a louder voice: “Please tell your mom and Harry.”
He put the piece of parchment on the kitchen table and stared out into the open air as his mind went into high gear. Why hadn’t she written: “Tell your mom, Harry and Ron?” Why not Ron? Did she really think he wouldn’t care where she was, that he wouldn’t be (at least) as worried as everyone else?
“I’m sure she didn’t…”, Harry started saying, but he didn’t seem to know how to continue.
“You’ve barely spoken to each other these last couple of weeks”, Ginny said. “And it might have taken you four years to realize, but she is a girl. She’s probably just being overdramatic and…”
“Are you coming?” Ron interrupted. When he saw the confused looks on their faces he sighed and added: “To Australia. Are you coming with me?”
“Ron, I don’t know how good you are at geography”, Harry said, “but Australia is not some tiny island. How are you planning to find her?”
“And has it even crossed your mind that she might want to do this alone?” Ginny asked. “Otherwise she would have just asked as to come, right?”
“The question is”, Ron said irritably, “if it has crossed your minds that there are still plenty of Death Eaters out there who are still on the loose and just waiting to get their hands on the Muggle-born girl who helped Harry Potter defeat their master?”
He stood up on his feet so quickly that the chair he had sat on would have fallen over, had it not been for his sister’s alertness. He then pulled out his wand and began summoning various objects from every corner of the house. After saying the spell (“Accio”) followed by the name of the particular object, it took only a few seconds before it came flying towards him, so he could catch it with his outstretched, left hand. It didn’t take long before a pile of objects covered the kitchen table – the Deluminator that he had inherited from Professor Dumbledore, two packs of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder from the twins’ shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, a dusty Sneakoscope and – much to Harry and Ginny’s surprise – a bunch of Hermione’s well-thumbed books.
Ron lowered his wand; he was apparently satisfied with the things he had collected.
“The cloak of invisibility?” Harry suggested.
“I wasn’t sure you’d let me borrow it!” Ron said, once again raising his right hand. “Accio cloak of invisibility!”
The silvery-coloured cloak, perfectly folded, flew down the stairs and stopped mid-air in front of him. He reached out his hand, caught it and placed it on the table.
“How do we get there?” Ginny asked.
Ron looked surprised. “I thought you weren’t coming?”
“She’s my best friend”, Ginny said. “Of course I’m coming.”
“Mine too”, Harry said. “Your dad told me about this place in Diagon Alley where they’ll set up Port Keys for you. That’s got to be the easiest way to get to Australia, don’t you think?”
The glass door that lead into the dental office closed with a boom, shutting out all the noise from the street outside – car engines, horns, human voices and the vague sound of waves crashing against the hard concrete pier. The tinkling sound of a doorbell made the young man sitting at the reception desk look up while smiling welcomingly. Hermione took a deep breath and smiled back at him.
“Welcome”, the man said while putting a cap on the pen he had just been writing with. “Do you have an appointment?”
“Well… no”, Hermione said. “I’m looking for some people… they’re dentists, so I just wanted to know if they work here. Wendell and Monica Wilkins.”
“Wilkins? Sorry”, the man said. “Do they work here in Sidney?”
“Actually”, Hermione mumbled, “all I know is that they work somewhere in Australia.”
The man gave a whistle. “That’s a bit trickier”, he said. “I’ve got a computer back here. If you want to use the Internet.”
Hermione nodded gratefully, but she was worried. Sure, her parents had had a computer back home, but it had been years since she had even touched it. As she walked around the desk and got a better look at the machine, her concerns grew stronger. This one looked nothing like the one her parents had, and she considered the option of making an excuse and run out of there as fast as she could. But, she reasoned with herself, this could be her best shot of finding her parents. And it wasn’t like she’d reveal the existence of magic by admitting that she didn’t know how to use a computer.
“I’m sorry”, she said as the man stood up to let her have the chair, “but would you mind doing it for me? I haven’t used a computer in such a long time. My parents… they don’t even want to hear the word technology…”
The man held up his hands to silence her. “I understand”, he said and winked at her. “No problem.”
Hermione was just about to turn around when she spotted a sudden movement in the corner of her eye. She instinctively reached her hand into her cardigan to pull out her wand, but her fingers barely had time to feel the smooth wood between them before the man had called out: “Expelliarmus!” and she felt it slip out of her grip. She span around and saw the man catching her wad with is left hand. The other one, holding a wand, was pointing directly at her.
“So… Granger.” He said her name with contempt, almost spitting it out. “Where is Potter? He didn’t let you go alone, did he? I mean, being the hero he is…”
He laughed scornfully, and Hermione looked at him without flinching. How would she ever be able to get herself out of this? He was armed, she wasn’t, and she had gone alone. She watched the man’s sneering face and realized that she had seen him before. She just couldn’t remember when or where.
“You see, we counted on him to come with you”, the man said. “What a disappointment. But on the other hand… if I kill you now, I’ll bet you a thousand galleons he will come after me for revenge. And maybe then we can have our revenge.”
Hermione could only think of one thing. It wasn’t the logical thing, which would have been how to get the hell out of there, which was a bit surprising considering she was the queen of logic. No, the only thing she could think about was Ron’s face. She had never told him how she felt every time she looked at it. She had never told him that she loved him. They hadn’t said a word to each other for weeks. They had had days, weeks, years together, and not once had Hermione looked into Ron’s eyes and said the words: “I love you”.
“Not to mention that the world would only benefit from having one less Mudblood in it…”
The man suddenly stopped talking and stared out the window. A few seconds later he had rushed over to Hermione, grabbed her hair and pulled her backwards. She could feel the tip of his wand touching her throat.
“Jugson, get out here!”
A tall, skinny man dressed in black robes came through a door that led into one of the patient rooms. Hermione glanced over at him and realized that he was one of the Death Eaters who had chased them in the Department of Mysteries during their fifth school year.
“Ah, a delicious prey, Selwyn”, he said. “Is she alone?”
“Look out the window”, answered the first one – Selwyn.
Both Hermione and Jugson turned their heads and looked at the street outside. Hermione’s heart stopped for a moment. Ron, with his Deluminator in hand, stood across the street, calling out for someone over his shoulder. Just a few seconds later Ginny and Harry caught up with him, and all three of them turned towards the dental clinic. Hermione guessed that the sun was shining too bright for them to able to see through the window, because none of them had any sort of reaction. Instead they hurried over to the pedestrian crossing and waited for the cars to stop and let them cross the street. Hermione couldn’t help but notice the fact that Ron was carrying her purple, beaded handbag, and she felt her eyes flood with tears. If only there was something she could do to warn them, get them to turn around and run away before something happened to them.
The very same second that Ron raised his hand to push the door open, Harry and Ginny seemed to realize what was going on inside. They both pulled out their wands, and a few moments later Ron did the same thing while stumbling in to the office.
“Let go of her!” he yelled while pointing his wand at Selwyn. “Get your filthy hands off…”
“Not so fast”, Selwyn interrupted him. “I have a proposal… Potter, you come with us. And we’ll let her live.”
Harry met Hermione’s eyes, and she shook her head, almost imperceptibly. If she knew him right he was planning on handing himself over, that’s just who he was. Noble, but stupid, as Ron would have put it.
“Let go of her first”, Harry said.
“Put your wands down first”, Selwyn retorted with a smile on his face.
Both Harry and Ron lowered their wands, and Hermione felt her stomach drop. But then she saw the slightly panicked, but determined, look on Ginny’s face, and stared at her until she met her eyes. Ginny moved her head just half an inch in towards Ron, and Hermione turned her eyes to him. She noticed the colourful label from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes sticking out of his pocket. He was looking at her, and Hermione tried to speak to him through her eyes. Your pocket. Ginny is ready. But before she could even ask herself whether or not he had understood her, Harry and Ginny set the plan in motion. Harry grabbed the Instant Darkness Powder while Ginny yelled: “Expelliarmus!” The wand that had rested against Hermione’s throat was torn out of its master’s grip and she heard the thud of it hitting the wooden floor, but she didn’t see it because the darkness had taken over her entire visual field. She felt someone grab her arm, and the grip on her hair loosened. The next thing she knew someone had pulled her out into the blinding sunlight outside the clinic. When her eyes had adjusted to the strong light she looked around. Ron was still holding a firm grip on her arm, and next to them Harry was pulling Ginny to her feet.
“Let’s go!” Ron said. “The Burrow?” He raised his wand to Apparate himself and Hermione.
“Wait!” exclaimed Hermione as the realization that had just taken over her mind caused a sense of panic to grow inside her. “My parents! I told that… Selwyn, I told him their false names! They’re going to kill them! I can’t just go back, Ron, not without…”
Ron lowered his wand and nodded.
Ginny’s voice made both Hermione and Ron turn their attention to their friends. The door of the dental office was just closing behind Harry, and Ginny was heading after him.
Ron looked confused, but Hermione could guess what Harry was thinking. If he could capture the Death Eaters now, before they could look up Mr and Mrs Wilkins or tell their names to their companions, her parents would be safe. Hermione fretted over the fact that it had never hit her that the man at the reception desk could be a Death Eater. But the thought of them knowing about where her parents were had never even crossed her mind. They had found out somehow, she thought as she followed Ron, who rushed after his sister into the compact darkness. She could hear the mumbling of incantation, but she couldn’t see the flashes of light that should have followed, and she had no idea at what direction the spells were shot.
“Stupefy”, Harry mumbled from somewhere to the left, and then: “Pertrificus totalus.” The second time his voice was coming from the right, and Hermione couldn’t help but smile. He was smart – he didn’t want the Death Eaters to be able to follow his voice and thereby aim their spells right. Ginny was busy doing the same thing. She sent one of her infamous hexes after the other into the darkness. Hermione was just about to follow their example when she heard a sound, just a few yards in front of her. Someone was moving, slowly and very quietly, straight towards her. Was it Ron? Since he hadn’t uttered a sound since they came back in, she had no idea where he could be. She wanted to ask, but if it was Jugson or Selwyn she would reveal the fact that she was standing right in front of them and make herself a way too easy target. Hermione’s heart pounded loudly in her chest, and she took a deep, silent breath. If it were Ron, a stunning spell wouldn’t harm him. She raised her wand, suddenly aware of the other person’s breathing – his inhales were shaky, as if he was nervous, and his exhalation was noticeably slow, so that no one would hear. Hermione wouldn’t have heard it either if she hadn’t stood so close to him.
I’ll take the chance, she thought, and without further ado she said: “Stupefy!”
There was a thud as her victim fell to the floor. “Ron, are you okay?” Hermione asked while moving a few steps to the left.
“Yes”, she heard Ron reply.
His voice seemed to come from below, which confused Hermione. Maybe she just hadn’t heard it right. A few seconds later a scream was heard – from one of the Death Eaters, Hermione assumed, because the deep male voice belonged to neither Harry nor Ron – followed by a muffled sound, Ron’s grunting and then: “Stupefy!” Hermione desperately wanted to see what was happening, but even though the darkness had begun to disperse she could barely distinguish the light that appeared at the tip of her wand when she mumbled: “Lumos.”
“Did we get them both?” Ron asked. “I’ve got one here. I think it’s Jugson.”
“Yeah, I got one too”, Hermione said.
“Let’s pull them outside”, Ginny suggested. “Just to make sure.”
“I left his body”, Hermione said while trying to remember exactly where. She started walking and almost tripped over the man’s legs. “Here! Harry, will you give me a hand?”
She grabbed the man’s legs and they fumbled their way to the door. They pulled who turned out to be Selwyn out on the street and placed him on the sidewalk. Ginny and Ron followed, dragging a stunned Jugson into the light. A very old woman, whose white hair hung in a braid down her hunched back, stopped when she saw them. She stared at the unconscious men and eyed the adolescents with suspicion.
“Oh, dear Lord!” she said. “What happened to them?”
“Nothing”, Ron said as his ears turned red. “They’ll be fine.”
“Are they alive?” The woman bent down to check on the men, which was pretty impressing given her age. Hermione hurried over to her.
“I think you should just keep walking”, she said. In the corner of her eye she noticed that Ginny had pulled out the cloak of invisibility and was prepared to cover the bodies with it. As discretely as she could, Hermione grabbed her wand, pointed it to the old woman and said: “Obliviate.”
As the word left her lips, she felt her eyes fill with tears and her vision blurred. She couldn’t use the spell without instantly travelling back in time to the moment when she’d erased the memory of her own existence from her parents’ minds. Missing them felt like having a freezing cold claw rip her chest open. She wanted to go back to being little, crawl up into her mother’s arms and forget everything else.
Ron was sitting on the ground, leaned against the storefront of the dental clinic. Harry was busy trying to contact Kingsley and Ginny stood on the sidewalk, ready to get in the way of anyone who was about to step on the Death Eaters who still were under the cloak of invisibility. Ron knew this, but his attention wasn’t on his best mate or his sister. He focused completely on Hermione, who looked like she could burst into tears any second.
He got up on his feet. Just a little while ago he had thought he was going to lose her, and it had made him realize that he would do anything for her. Right now, he wanted nothing more than to comfort her. He was pretty sure that the only thing that would make her feel better was finding her parents. After a moment of hesitation he walked up to her and put his arms around her. She started sobbing, pressed her face against his shoulder and hugged him tightly.
“I’m so glad you’re okay”, he whispered.
She looked up at him, tears streaming slowly down her cheeks, and smiled.
“Ron?” she said. “I love you.”
It was nothing like how he’d imagined it. He had pictured nicer surroundings than the sidewalk in a pretty shabby part of Sidney. He sure hadn’t pictured her crying. And he hadn’t been able to imagine how it would feel when the words left her lips. It was as if every feeling he had felt up until that moment had only scratched the surface of his heart, never coming close to reaching its core. This time he felt with every inch of his body, all the way into its centre and out in every corner, every nook. There are two kinds of strong feelings. There is the kind that takes you by storm all at once, causing you to almost lose your footing. But it was not that kind of thing Ron felt for Hermione. It was the kind of feeling that creeps up on you without you really noticing, and its tiny, thin threads make their way into the very core of your heart, where they tangle up and create such a mess that you just know they will never untangle. Not that you would want them to. Ron didn’t want them to – he gladly allowed the feeling to grip him and fill him up completely.
“I love you too, Hermione. Let’s go find your parents, shall we?”
Mrs Weasley had forced her three eldest sons to clear the table out in the backyard, which they had laid beautifully for the upcoming feast of the night, and set the kitchen table instead. She was currently standing in the kitchen, only paying a little attention to the stove, which she was heating up using her wand. The rest of it was turned to the family clock, the one whose golden hands revealed the whereabouts of each member of the Weasley family. A while ago, both Ginny and Ron’s hands had pointed at mortal peril, but Ginny’s had turned to travelling. Ron’s hand didn’t seem to be able to make up its mind and constantly switched between travelling and lost. The scratching sound of its movement made it impossible for Mrs Weasley to turn her eyes away from the clock. That was until a clicking sound made her aware of the fact that Ginny’s hand had moved again, and was now pointing at home, causing Mrs Weasley to turn around and stare at the front door.
Only a few moments later the door opened, and Harry and Ginny stepped inside. Before either of them had time to say anything Mrs Weasley had pulled them into her arms, hugging them so tight it was a wonder they could still breathe.
“We’re fine, mum”, Ginny said while wriggling out of her mother’s embrace. “So are Ron and Hermione. They’re still looking for Mr and Mrs Granger.”
Charlie and Percy, who had waited at the kitchen table since they had finished setting it, stood up and walked over to greet their little sister and her boyfriend.
“What happened?” asked Percy. “We saw your hands at the clock…”
“Death Eaters”, Harry explained. “Jugson and Selwyn. Kingsley took them to Azkaban.”
Mrs Weasley looked shocked, and Charlie put his arm around her shoulders.
“They’re all fine”, he reminded her. “Don’t worry.”
“But Hermione and Ron are still…”
“Kingsley had a few aurors come with them, just in case”, Ginny said. “They should be back any second. I told Hermione to invite her parents over for dinner.”
She smiled at her mom, who didn’t seem convinced. But no more convincing had to be done, because Ron’s hand at the clock went via travelling to home, and a few seconds later the front door opened again. Ron came in first. He looked surprised when he saw his whole family standing right inside the door – George, Bill, Fleur, Angelina Johnson and Mr Weasley had just joined the others in the kitchen. Ron stepped inside and Hermione’s smiling face replaced his in the doorway. A woman with brown, bushy hair and a man with an inquisitive facial expression were glancing over her shoulder, trying to get a look of the people inside. They both seemed to feel out of place, and they met the Weasleys’ eyes nervously. Hermione had to reach out, grab their arms and pull them inside. She then turned around and faced the Weasley family, once again with a wide smile on her face.
“Everyone, meet my mum and dad!”
Author's Note: I'm sorry that it took so long to put up this next chapter, but I had to wait for my one-shot, Narcissa's Choice, to be validated before I could submit this one.
I would really appreciate it if you'd take the time to leave a review. I really want to know what you think, and you'd make me very happy!
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