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Chapter 14 : Together Again
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Before he left Romania he’d gone to the Dragon sanctuary to see Elena and tell her where he was going. Since he had no idea how long he’d been gone she was a little put out, but he promised to owl her and let her know. She had two weeks off next month and was planning on joining him to finally meet his family, something that made his stomach churn every time he thought of it.
Now he was here though, Ron wondered why he’d bothered. Harry had already told him that his friendship with Hermione was on the rocks and they’d grown apart over the past few years. Ron was nervous more than anything; he hated change and couldn’t stand the thought that the three of them weren’t close anymore and blamed himself entirely. Draining the last droplets from the bottle, he bid farewell to Tom and walked out onto the bustling street of Diagon Alley. From there, he apparated to the Ottery St. Catchpole.
He landed with a thud on top of the vibrant green hill, from which he could see the familiar and comforting sight of the Burrow, steam billowing from the chimney whilst his mother was no doubt cooking something delicious. He walked briskly down the hill towards his old home. Opening the gate in front of the rickety house, he was greeted by one of his childhood enemies: gnomes. Kicking a few along the way, Ron slowly paced towards the door and pushed it open without knocking.
Sure enough, Molly Weasley stood in front of the stove, using her wand to simultaneously slice a thick loaf of bread and stir the bubbling pot of soup she had warming up. He watched her for a while, remembering the thousand times he’d seen this sight before. His mother had always been the most brilliant cook, with even the house elves at Hogwarts coming a close second. This was one of the things he’d missed most whilst being abroad, since he rarely got a cooked meal and lived mostly on beans on toast. He cleared his throat and his mother almost tumbled as she spun around quickly.
“Ronald! What are you doing here? How lovely to see you!” she shrieked, giving him no time to reply before she squeezed him tightly to her.
“Hi, mum,” he said and smiled down at her. Time had not been kind to her. The creases along her brow had deepened since he had last seen her and her fiery hair was now streaked with grey. He noticed how much she stooped as he looked at her. “How are you?”
“Oh don’t you go worrying about me, my boy, it’s you we should be worried about! Aren’t you eating over there in Romania? I’ll kill Charlie, I told him to look after you-“
“Mum, calm down, I’m fine! The food over there just isn’t as good as yours,” he said and chuckled as his mother blushed.
“Well, anyway, come to the living room, Ginny’s here for lunch,” Molly said, and led the way as though he hadn’t a clue where he was going.
He followed her through the cluttered kitchen, knocking over several empty pots and pans in his wake and went into the living room. Once there, Molly returned back to the kitchen to carry on with lunch. Ginny looked up from the magazine she was reading, which looked as though it contained wedding dresses, and beamed at him.
“I thought I heard you!” she said, struggling to lift herself from her seat.
“Bloody hell Gin, you’ve put weight on since I last saw you,” he joked as Ginny narrowed her eyes at him.
“Very funny Ron,” she said, “It tends to happen when you’re four months pregnant.”
They hugged each other tightly, Ron being careful not to squash the bump that protruded from the tiny woman. A lot had changed since he’d been away, but he didn’t think he’d ever get used to the fact that Ginny had grown up. He loved her dearly and knew Harry would always look after her but to him, she’d always be his little sister.
“So what brings you home? Mum never said you were coming back,” Ginny said.
“She didn’t know, no one did. I just decided it had been long enough,” Ron said, but his sister couldn’t miss the look on his face.
“Nothing,” he mumbled and sat beside the seat she’d previously been sat in.
“Don’t lie to me Ronald,” Ginny scolded and his ears reddened, “You’re my brother, I know when there’s something wrong.”
He sighed and slumped back in his chair, “I’m worried. Hermione hasn’t been answering any of my letters. I’ve sent five to her apartment and the same to her parent’s house since Harry said she was staying there. You know Hermione, she writes a bloody sight more than I do so I thought something might be wrong.”
Ginny said nothing and sat beside him. A moment passed as she looked out of the open window at the meadow just outside their house. She watched as a tiny bluebird soared from the sky and perched on the small fence surrounding them.
“Harry and I think something’s wrong too. It was so weird, she just owled Harry and said she wouldn’t be at work for a while. There was no explanation or anything,” she said and looked down at her hands.
“Is there something you’re not telling me?” Ron quizzed.
“It’s nothing major. Harry and Hermione had an argument the night before she went. He’d had Neville tailing Malfoy,” she explained.
“So? Why would they argue about that?”
“Well, Neville saw Malfoy at the Leaky Cauldron…with Hermione,” she muttered, avoiding her brother’s gaze.
Ron’s face turned the colour of beetroot and he looked as though steam was about to come out of his ears, as though he’d burst.
“What the bloody hell was she doing with him?!”
“We don’t know, Ron. All we know is that was the last time we saw her before she went to her parents,” Ginny said.
“So you’re telling me,” he stood and paced the room, “that Neville saw Hermione with Malfoy, of all people, you haven’t seen her since, and she hasn’t been answering any of my letters? Isn’t it obvious? He’s kidnapped her!” Ron shouted, causing Molly to run in.
“Oh don’t be so dramatic Ron, of course he hasn’t kidnapped her! Why would he? He works for the ministry now, he’s a trusted wizard,” Ginny said, shaking her head, “I know you hate him, we all do, but it’s not our business who she chooses to spend her time with. Like she said, she’s at her parent’s house.”
Ron couldn’t believe this. How were they not in more of a panic? She’d disappeared off the face of the earth and he didn’t care what they said, it was pretty clear that she wasn’t with her parents since all of his letters had been returned unopened. His mother came over and steered him by the shoulders back to his seat.
“Calm down Ronald. I will not have you coming back and shouting the odds at your sister while she’s in this state!” she shouted at him, causing his ears to redden once more. Ginny smirked wickedly. She loved it when her mother took her side.
Still worried about her parents, Draco had convinced her that no news was good news. They would have heard if anything had happened and as Blaise said, they had the best Aurors for security although they didn’t know it. Nonetheless, Hermione had penned a quick letter to them just to check that they were okay, heading up to the owlery at 8 o'clock that morning to use one of Draco’s owls to send it. Once she got there, she tied the letter to the leg of the owl that Draco had told her was the fastest, who had a broach emblazoned with the Malfoy family crest magically attached to its lapel in order to keep a trace on it.
Now, however, she had a request for Draco and didn’t really know how he was going to react. She’d been putting it off all morning but knew she couldn’t for much longer.
“I want to go and see Harry and Ginny today,” she said carefully, “and I’d very much like it if you could come with me. Moral support would be nice.”
Draco frowned at her for a second, wondering whether this would be a good idea. Although he regularly worked with Potter at the Ministry, that was entirely work related and he doubted he’d be welcome in his home. Regardless, he felt he owed this to Hermione and he’d vowed to help her in any way he could. He couldn’t very well say no.
“Okay,” he said reluctantly, “but I won’t stand for it if Potter starts having a hissy fit.”
Hermione laughed, “Harry doesn’t have hissy fits, he isn’t a little girl you know.”
Draco gave her a sceptical look and she shook her head at him, entertained by his reaction. He and Harry were both such children at times.
“He normally gets off work at around 4 so we’ll go to the house then,” she said.
“Fine by me.”
They both left the dining hall to go to their respective rooms where Hermione planned to take a shower. Once she got there however, she sat at the desk to think. This was not going to be pretty, although she felt a little better knowing that Draco would be there to support her. She hated to think how Harry would react when he found out about Rowle, particularly when he heard of Draco’s part in it. There was no way of escaping it, she would have to tell Harry what he did because why else would he be involved now? She rested her head in her hands with dread, her stomach churning. Suddenly unable to resist the urge to vomit, she rushed to the bathroom where she had her head down the toilet for the next half an hour. Nerves normally didn’t have this effect on her.
Jumping in the shower quickly, she washed the sick from her hair in the warm water. She felt disgusting now, which simply did not help matters at all.
Stepping out of the shower, she wrapped herself in the robe that had miraculously appeared on the back of the door yesterday, most likely courtesy of Draco. She headed into her adjoining bedroom towards the wardrobe. Comfort was key today, she thought. She picked out a pair of light jeans and a deep green jumper she had always loved. It had kept her warm many a night in the past few years.
Applying a light dusting of makeup to disguise the sickness in her now pale face, she was almost ready. She dried her hair with her wand, straight again today, and stowed it away in her jeans pocket. Crookshanks meowed angrily from his spot on the bed as she walked towards the door. He didn’t like to be forgotten about. She walked back over to him and gave him a loving stroke on the head, leaving him purring as she left.
She realised they hadn’t decided where to meet so Hermione headed for Draco’s bedroom and knocked before entering, without waiting for an answer. He stood in the centre of the room with a towel wrapped around his waist, his torso dripping wet from the shower he must have had. Hermione looked wide eyed at the back of him, the sculpted muscles of his shoulders protruding invitingly. Shaking her head, she cleared her throat.
“Sorry to barge in, I did knock,” she said.
“Oh, erm, no problem,” Draco said, grabbing some clothes before heading back towards his bathroom. A moment later he emerged, fully clothed now, and gave Hermione a charming smile. “You look very nice, green suits you.”
“Thank you,” she smiled back.
“You look pretty pale, is everything okay?”
“Just nervous,” she muttered, looking towards to floor as Draco swept his cloak over him and picked up his wand.
“I’ll be there. If you need me to take over and explain anything to them, which I’m sure they’ll expect me to do at some point, just tell me.”
She looked up thankfully at him, and realised there was something she still needed to say.
“Are you prepared for this? You do realise I have to tell them your part in this?”
“I understand that and fully expected it. Which is why my wand will be firmly in my hand at all times,” he joked lightly, wanting to do anything to make her feel more at ease. There was no doubt this was going to be extremely difficult for her. He could see the worry in her eyes mixed with the shadow of the memory she was about to reveal to her friends. He walked over to her and put a soothing hand on her shoulder.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked. She sucked in a deep breath and nodded.
“I think it’s best to apparate. It might not be the best idea for you to fall out of the fireplace into their living room,” Hermione smirked.
“Good idea,” Draco said through his laughter, and they left his room and walked down the dark corridor once more to the front door.
With May fast approaching, there wasn’t so much of a chill in the air today and the sky was void of clouds, leaving a vast blue canvas above them. Wanting to get their journey out of the way before it got dark, Draco and Hermione hurried out of the gates where they apparated to Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
Ron was still fuming hours later and hadn’t yet returned to his usual colour; the tips of his ears still resembled very ripe tomatoes.
“What if she’s in trouble Ginny?” he asked for the millionth time that hour.
Ginny rolled her eyes. “I’ve already told you Ron, she said she was staying with her parents and that’s that. Maybe she just needed space and that’s why she’s not replying to your letters. Let’s be honest, you never respond to hers,” she snorted.
Ron looked away from her, ashamed at the truth of what she’d said. It wasn’t even that he didn’t have the time since it wasn’t really a busy time of the year at the sanctuary; he just didn’t know what to say to Hermione these days, they were too far apart in every sense. He sighed and went into the kitchen to his mother, who was now preparing dinner.
“Hello sweetheart,” Molly said without looking round. She had always had a strange instinct when it came to her children. She had the insane ability to know where they were, what they were doing and if anything was wrong. It was like she had eyes everywhere, Ron thought.
“Mum, aren’t you worried about Hermione? It’s like no one else seems to care,” he mumbled.
“Don’t give me that, Ronald. We’ve been here for her when you weren’t, so don’t tell me no one cares. We just accept that she’s old enough to do what she wants now, we can’t protect her from everything.” Sensing his upset, she said “Let’s just wait until Harry gets here, if you’re worried you should talk to him about it.”
He hated to admit it, but his mother was right. All of them had grown up, Ginny was living proof of that. He never thought he’d grow up enough to live alone in another country, he thought. Although he wasn’t altogether alone, which reminded him there was something he needed to tell his mum.
“Yeah okay. Anyway mum, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while…” he said, and his mother instantly turned around, giving him a look that said she thought he’d done something wrong.
“You’d better not have been getting yourself in to trouble,” she said sternly, her intense gaze forcing him to look away from her.
“Don’t be daft. It’s just that I’ve met someone. Well, I met her a while ago actually,” he said.
Molly’s mood changed immediately and she hurried over to him, her bundle of red hair smothering his face as she hugged him.
“Oh Ron, that’s superb! I’m thrilled for you!” she exploded, just as Ginny walked in.
“Oooooh, has little Ronniekins got himself a girlfriend?” she teased playfully.
“Shut it, Ginny,” he said.
“Well, what’s her name?” she asked her brother.
“Elena Davenport. She started at the sanctuary a year ago.”
“A year?! It’s been a year and you’ve waited this long to tell us about her?” Ginny said.
“Well, yeah. You’ll meet her soon, she’s coming over in a couple of weeks when she gets off work,” he said.
“Oh goodness, I’d better get the house tidy! What does she like to eat?” Molly fussed, already cleaning the windows with her wand, regardless of the fact they were already sparkling.
“Mum, just calm down would you? She won’t care whether the house is tidy and she isn’t fussy about food,” Ron said.
“Sounds perfect for you then,” Ginny grinned and Ron laughed.
“Yeah well, they say there’s someone for everyone,” he said with a wistful smile. “What time’s Harry due back?”
“He’ll be here in an hour or so. He owled me earlier to say he had loads of paperwork to deal with before he came home so he’s running late,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes.
The siblings vacated the room. Ron made his way up the stairs to his old room where he was going to unpack his belongings. His mother was right. If anything was wrong with Hermione, Harry was the one he should talk to about it. He was as protective of her as Ron was, he’d understand his worry.
Hermione and Draco landed in the nearby park that Hermione had come to on the night she’d argued with Harry and found Avery and Rookwood in her apartment. After a short walk, they came to Grimmauld Place and watched as Number 12 appeared in front of them.
Hermione walked up the stone steps towards the door and knocked loudly. They waited a while. No answer.
“Doesn’t look like anyone’s in,” she mused, a frown creasing her brow. “That’s odd, I thought Ginny would at least be here even if Harry isn’t home from work yet.”
“It looks a bit weird if we just hang around waiting,” Draco said, looking around him at the street. It was quiet.
“You think I’m going to just leave it now? I’ve only just plucked up the courage to do this, I can’t put it off or I’ll change my mind. We’ll go to the Burrow,” she decided, and sped off back the way they’d come, grabbing Draco’s arm to disapparate.
A few moments later they were on the familiar hill overlooking the Burrow and Hermione felt her stomach lurch into her throat. It was a while since she’d been here. She’d avoided it mostly since Ron had left, and Molly visited her apartment rather than her going to the Burrow. She had the feeling that Molly thought something more had happened between herself and Ron, explaining his quick departure to Romania but wouldn’t listen when Hermione told her it wasn’t so.
Draco had to almost run to keep up with her as she hurried down the hill and into the garden of the shabby house. He looked up at it and wondered why anybody would want to live here. Suddenly remembering who he was and mentally scolding himself for being so vile, he shook his head and stood next to Hermione as she knocked the front door tamely.
It took a few moments before Molly Weasley appeared at the door, stooped lower than Draco had remembered her on the few occasions they’d met. She looked up at the two of them and her jaw dropped.
“Hermione! I thought you were in Australia?” she asked, ushering her inside. She stopped still when she noticed Draco stood next to her. Molly’s expression grew more confused as she looked at Hermione. “What is he doing with you?”
“Molly, please, it’s okay. He doesn’t mean any harm. I really need to see Harry and Ginny, are they here?” she asked politely.
“Y-yes, Ginny’s here,” she said and moved aside to let Draco in, albeit reluctantly. “Harry isn’t back from work yet but he shouldn’t be long. Hermione, I should tell you, Ro-“
She didn’t get to finish her sentence. As Hermione walked into the kitchen she was greeted by her gangly best friend, his red hair slightly longer than the last time she’d seen him. He looked like he’d lost weight too, giving him more of a resemblance to his twin brothers.
“Ron?” she asked quietly. She hadn’t seen this man for years, but it felt like he’d never left in that moment. He ran over to her, scooping her into his arms in a tight embrace.
“Hi, Hermione. What are you doing here? I’ve been writing, Harry said you were-“
He stopped mid-sentence as his eyes scanned the room to where Draco’s blonde hair had caught his eye. Without warning, he turned scarlet and lunged at him, wand poised in front of him.
“What the bloody hell are you doing here Malfoy?” he asked, and pressed his wand to Draco’s cheek.
“Ron, leave him!” Hermione screamed.
“Hermione, it’s okay. You’re safe now. Just step back!” he shouted angrily.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“Look, I know he kidnapped you! You don’t have to pretend okay? I’m here now, I’m not going to let him hurt you,” Ron said.
“WHAT?! Draco has not kidnapped me! Put your bloody wand down you moron!”
Ron swivelled round, open mouthed, shocked at the way she was speaking to him. He slackened his grip on his wand which slid down Draco’s cheek, giving him a chance to step away from Ron.
“She’s right Weasley. I haven’t kidnapped her and I do not intend to hurt her in any way,” Draco said calmly.
Ron stood, utterly astonished that Hermione had defended Malfoy and even more confused that she didn’t seem to be in any danger at all. What the hell was going on?
“Ron, please just calm down,” Hermione said as his face contorted with anger. “I don’t know what you think is going on but you’ve got it completely wrong. I came here to tell Harry and Ginny something but you should hear it too. Can we just go and sit down please?”
Ron looked in two minds as to whether they should sit down or whether he should hex Malfoy there and then, but Molly stepped in.
“Ronald, this is not the way we treat guests in this house, or had you forgotten?” she asked and stared sternly at her son. He looked as though he was about to argue with her but thought better of it, heaving a huge sigh and turning towards the living room.
Hermione cast Molly a grateful look and Draco nodded politely at her. She continued to busy herself in the kitchen as the other two followed Ron into the living room.
“Hermione! Thank Merlin you’re here, I don’t think I could have listened to Ron’s moaning for much longer,” Ginny laughed and hugged her friend. “I heard what went on in the kitchen, but unlike some –“ she stared pointedly at her brother, “I am not going to start screaming and shouting. I just want to know what he’s doing here, Hermione. We’ve been worried about you.”
Hermione started to say something but couldn’t seem to find the right words. She looked at Draco who gave her an encouraging smile and nodded at her to continue.
“I’m really sorry, I should have kept in touch. Look, I haven’t been with my parents, I’ve been at Malfoy Manor. There’s a few things I need to explain but can we please wait until Harry gets here? I don’t think I could go through it twice,” Hermione said. Her eyes filled up as she looked at the faces of her two friends. They looked so disappointed in her, angry with her. She really wished she’d gone home when nobody answered at Grimmauld Place.
Harry was, as usual, sat at his desk in the office where he’d been for the past 9 hours. Work had been hectic all day and he’d been here, there and everywhere in the building and now he had to tackle the pile of letters that had arrived for him. Typically his secretary would deal with most of this but today of all days she’d called in sick. He sighed and picked up the first letter in his in-tray. The front of it had a stamp in big red letters: URGENT. He wondered how long it had been there.
He put it down again, wondering whether to just give up and go home. He was supposed to have been at the Burrow almost an hour ago where Molly was cooking dinner. He and Ginny had been summoned by her; she was in charge of the invitations for the wedding and wanted to go through the seating plan for where all the distant Weasley relatives would be placed. Apparently there were some long-running feuds between them and Molly worried that there would be some nasty jinxes flying around if Aunt Muriel was sat next to Fleur. She wasn’t fond of her and the feeling was quite mutual.
This made Harry think of his own family. His father, mother and godfather would all be missing from his wedding day. He laughed at the thought of inviting the Dursleys. They certainly wouldn’t have to provide any entertainment if they were there.
Deciding it was best not to leave the letter unopened, Harry packed his things up ready to go home, pulled on his cloak and stowed away his wand in his pocket before sitting back at the desk to read the letter.
He opened it carefully and couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing as he read the words in front of him. He tucked the letter into his pocket and sprinted to the Atrium.
There was a stony silence at the Burrow. Ron sat facing away from Draco and Hermione who were sitting closely to each other on the sofa where Ginny showed them potential wedding dresses she was choosing from. Draco, who at least had the decency to look interested, joined in the conversation with the two women and Ron was disgusted at how much of a traitor Ginny was being.
“How can you just sit there like that, with him?” he asked her. “We lost dad and Fred because of him!”
“RON!” The two girls screamed, just as Molly walked into the room and looked absolutely appalled at her son.
“Ronald Weasley, apologize. Now.”
“No mum, I won’t. It’s true. He, his Death Eaters parents and his precious Dark Lord are the reason our family has been split apart!” Ron shouted.
“Draco had no choice in this, his parents forced him to do what Voldemort said otherwise they would all have been killed! How dare you blame him?! If that explanation is good enough for the Ministry then it’s good enough for me. He is innocent, Ron,” Hermione shrieked, tears staining her face.
“Yeah? You know that for sure do you Hermione?”
“Yes I do! I trust him,” she said.
Draco had his head bowed, looking down at his hands. “Hermione, I think it’s about time you just told them.”
“Yes, I will but I want to wait for Harry to-“
Just as she said his name, Harry fell out of the fireplace as the flames turned green.
“Hermione? What are you doing here?” he asked, pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose and running a hand through his already messy hair.
“Harry, good, you’re here,” she said. “There’s something we need to talk about -” she stopped talking when she saw the look on Harry’s face.
His face was ghostly pale and his hands were shaking slightly. He looked at her with wide eyes and an expression that she couldn’t make out.
“Harry, what’s wrong?” Ginny asked. He ignored her and carried on staring at Hermione.
He had noticed Malfoy sitting next to her and had no idea what was going on but figured that would have to be dealt with later. He stumbled shakily over to a vacant armchair and collapsed into it, all the while still looking at Hermione.
“Hermione, I….” he started and screwed his eyes tight shut then looking at her once more. “I’m so sorry but…it’s your parents. They’re dead.”
Eeek I'm a little scared that people are going to hate me for this! But there you go, another chapter :) This is the longest so far and the next couple are the same, i just can't seem to stop writing! Oh and i've reached 5000 reads, yay! Thank you guys, you're all great. Lots of love x
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