MAJOR AUTHOR'S NOTE: I began writing this story five years ago before the sixth Harry Potter book came out, so please don't get mad at me because Dumbledore is still alive.

Disclaimer: Just stealing JK Rowling's characters.

Chapter 20: The Past, The Present

"Avada Kedavra!"

Hermione's heart was beating strong in her chest as she felt someone knock her down to the ground. Flashes of green, red and blue were swarming around her and suddenly everything went black.

When Hermione reached consciousness again she felt herself in a warm cozy bed surrounded by a long line of other beds. She was in the Hospital Wing back at Hogwarts. She looked at her surroundings and saw Harry on a bed in the far corner. He was in bad shape. Before she could get up to go see him, Dumbledore entered the Wing and stared right at her with a look that told her to stay where she was.

He sauntered over to her and picked up a chair to bring to her bedside. Hermione lay back down on her pillows and waited for Dumbledore to make himself comfortable.

Dumbledore sat down and looked into Hermione's eyes. Hermione stared back. Dumbledore's face was stoic and Hermione knew something was wrong. Before she could ask any questions, Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak.

"How are you feeling Ms. Granger?"

"Better Professor. What happened Professor? Back at the Malfoy Manor. I can't recall what happened after Vo-... Voldemort discovered Elise and myself. The last thing I heard was the Avada Kedavra curse being shouted towards me and then getting knocked to the ground."

Dumbledore took a deep breath and stared at Hermione. A long silence retained in the air and Hermione knew she was in for bad news.

"Two Avada Kedavra curses were uttered. One for you, the other for Voldemort." Hermione didn't understand. Two Avada Kedavra curses? One for Voldemort?

"Is he still alive then?" inquired Hermione tentatively.

"Lord Voldemort? No. He has fallen. Most of his death eaters are now at Azkaban or dead. Lucius escaped with Draco when he saw the Dark Lord fall. The Ministry of Magic has been contacted and are running an investigation as we speak."

Hermione was glad to hear that the Dark Lord was finally dead but she knew Dumbledore had more to tell her. Something that would strike her hard.

"What about the Avada Kedavra curse that was meant for me? Why wasn't I killed?"

Dumbledore broke eye contact with Hermione. He took a deep breath and stared once again in her soft chocolate eyes that were melting before him.

"Mr. Weasley blocked the curse from getting to you, Ms. Granger. He's dead." Hermione gasped, her hands quickly covering her mouth. Ron…dead! It couldn't be true. Hermione turned away from Dumbledore and began sobbing into her pillow.

So Ron was the one that Merlin had spoken about. He had died saving her life. She would never talk to him again. She would never be able to quarrel with him about things that only seemed like trifles now that he was gone. Did Harry know? How was he? Why did it have to be like this? She should have been the one who died.

A thousand questions were swarming around Hermione's brain as she continued to soak her pillow. Dumbledore gave her a few minutes before he touched Hermione's shoulder so that he could gain her attention. Several seconds later she turned towards him, her eyes were red and her face was stained with tears. It was hard to cope with the fact that she would never laugh with one of the funniest people she'd ever known.

"He died for a good cause Ms. Granger. His death was not in vain. He has aided in the defeat of Lord Voldemort and saved countless lives. You must heal Ms. Granger. I know it will take time but you must retain the memories you have of him. I'm sure Mr. Weasley wouldn't want to see you crying."

Hermione sniffled and rubbed the remaining tears from her eyes. "Does Harry know?"

"Not yet. The Avada Kedavra curse spent much of his energy and he was attacked by Elise following the death of her father."

Hermione's eyes hardened when she heard Elise's name. That treacherous witch! She was the reason Ron was dead. She was the reason her last year at Hogwarts had been horrible.

"Where is she now Professor?" demanded Hermione.

"She's in Azkaban. She is currently awaiting trial pending her execution by way of the Kiss."

Hermione was happy to hear that justice would be served. A life for a life. Elise should die for Ron. It was just payment.

Dumbledore sighed when he saw the expression on Hermione's face after he had told her news of Elise's capture.

"It is late Ms. Granger and you must rest. I will fetch Madam Pomfrey to come examine you. Sleep, and we shall speak more when Mr. Potter has recuperated."

Hermione nodded and pulled the covers up to her shoulders.

"Thank you Professor," she exclaimed. "Goodnight."

"As to you," responded Dumbledore as he exited the Hospital Wing in search of Madam Pomfrey.

Soon enough, Madam Pomfrey entered the Wing and hurried towards Hermione. She looked Hermione over with her wand and stirred up a potion to help her rest. Hermione drank the potion quickly and closed her eyes, waiting to be consumed by darkness again.

At dawn the next morning, Hermione woke up with the sun glaring down through the windows. Unable to find her wand, she walked over to the windows and shut the curtains.

Adjusting to the interior light, she searched her surroundings and her gaze centred on the unconscious young man lying on the cot in the far corner.

She slowly crept towards his bed and carefully took a seat by his side. Harry looked peaceful as he rested in the cot, yet his face was covered in cuts and bruises were scattered all over his neck and arms.

She couldn't stand to see him in this state. She still couldn't believe that Ron had died and that Harry was unconscious. Without her two best friends, there was no one there to provide the comfort she needed.

She lifted herself onto Harry's bed and curled up against his limp body. She threaded her fingers through Harry's hair as she cried for him and Ron. As long as Harry was unconscious, no one could make her leave his side. She wasn't going to lose her other best friend. As her sobs began to calm, her breathing steadied and before she knew it, she was sleeping again.

"Hermione," a voice called through the darkness. "Hermione!"

She groggily looked around and realized that she was strewn across Harry's body. She sat up and peered across the hospital wing pondering who was calling her name.

"Hermione," the voice soothingly repeated her name.

She glanced down to the body beside her and realized that it was Harry who had spoken her name. She burst into another fountain of tears and threw her arms around his body.

It didn't bother Harry that with Hermione on top of him, she was causing him an excruciating amount of pain; what bothered him was the fact that she was crying.

"Herms," he croaked as he slowly tried to rub her back with his bruised arms. "It's okay Herms. Everything's fine."

"You're alive," Hermione sobbed into the pillow.

"I am for now," Harry chuckled. "I won't be for long unless you stop cutting off my air supply." Hermione quickly removed herself from Harry and wiped her face on her pyjamas. Harry saw how distraught Hermione was and took her hand in his.

"I told you Herms, everything's fine. Sure I'm in pain now, but it's not like this is my first time in the hospital wing," he tried to ensure her.

"Everything's not fine Harry. Things have changed. Things that we can't go into the past and fix," Hermione gulped between tears.

"I don't understand what you mean," Harry replied. Hermione looked Harry straight in the eyes and he looked back at hers in confusion.

"What's the last thing you remember Harry?" she questioned him. Harry thought back to before he woke up feeling the warmth of Hermione's body curled up against his.

He remembered going to the Malfoy Manor to save Hermione. He remembered Draco and Elise taking him and Ron to Lord Voldemort. He remembered Dumbledore attacking the deatheaters that escorted the Dark Lord. He remembered saying the worst of the Unforgivable Curses. After that, all he remembered was darkness.

"Well?" Hermione pried, bringing Harry back from his thoughts.

"I remember Lord Voldemort about to attack you and Elise and I instinctively cursed him with an Unforgivable Curse," he muttered softly. "After that, I just remember waking up here."

Hermione began to sob again. Harry looked up at her and raised his hand to caress her cheek.

"Tell me Hermione. Tell me what happened," he quivered. Hermione shook her head, she didn't want to vocalize what she knew was the truth. She was afraid that if she said it, there was no going back, she'd have to accept the truth about Ron's fate.

"Please Hermione," Harry pleaded. "I need to know." Hermione looked into his emerald eyes and took a deep breath.

"He's dead Harry," she finally whispered. Silence filled the hospital wing. Harry stared at her and tried to read her face.

"Voldemort? He's dead?" He questioned as he slowly sat up.

Hermione nodded but then shook her head. But then she couldn't look into Harry's eyes anymore. She fell into his arms and began sobbing again.

"I don't understand Herms. Is Voldemort dead or not?"

"They both are," Hermione cried. Harry was getting more confused with every answer Hermione gave him.

"Please Hermione. You're not making any sense. Can you explain to me who's dead? More than one person died? Voldemort and someone else? Was it Elise? He killed Elise instead of you, didn't he? That bastard, how could he kill his own-"

"RON IS DEAD!" Hermione shouted at Harry. They both stared at each other not knowing what to say next. Harry broke their gaze and stared at the bed sheets. It couldn't be true. Ron couldn't be dead. Hermione sniffled quietly as she watched Harry's face change from every emotion possible.

"Voldemort directed the Avada Kedavra curse towards both Elise and I but Ron ran in front of the spell and knocked us both to the ground. Meanwhile, you had also shouted the Avada Kedavra curse at Voldemort, which killed him."

More silence filled the room.

"How do you know what happened?" questioned Harry.

"Dumbledore told me last night. He said that after you struck Voldemort, I had been knocked unconscious because of the impact by which I fell to the ground. Elise however watched you kill her father and attacked you, which is why you're in the hospital wing."

Harry tried to process everything that Hermione was saying to him. "So Ron died saving your life?" He concluded looking up at Hermione's chocolate eyes.

Hermione nodded as one tear trickled down her face. They both sat in silence pondering over what they had just discussed before the hospital wing door carefully eased open and Madam Promfrey entered holding a tray of food followed by Professor Dumbledore.

"How wonderful!" Madam Pomfrey beamed. "You're both up. I brought you some breakfast and Professor Dumbledore has come to visit."

The adults sauntered over to Hermione and Harry and Professor Dumbledore conjured a small dining table and three chairs for them to sit on as Madam Pomfrey set the trays. Harry and Hermione slowly lifted themselves off Harry's bed and trudged towards the table to their seats. Madam Pomfrey uttered a spell and two goblets appeared before the teens.

"Now drink this with your breakfast and you'll both feel as right as rain when your meal is over," she explained cheerfully.

Harry and Hermione looked at each other and then reached for their goblets and carefully drank the concoction that Madam Pomfrey had conjured for them. Unlike her usual medicines, these ones tasted sweet and they felt the liquid course through their bodies delicately. After the first sip, they both began to eat their breakfast silently as Dumbledore quietly ate his.

Once they had all finished their breakfasts, Harry and Hermione felt refreshed and Dumbledore looked at them intently. The teens both looked at their professor, each wondering who would be the first to speak.

"How are feeling Mr. Potter?" inquired Dumbledore.

Harry looked at Hermione and thought about how he would respond to Dumbledore's simple yet difficult question.

"I'm not sure Sir," he replied. Dumbledore looked from Harry to Hermione and Hermione looked at Dumbledore before turning her attention back to Harry.

"I assume that Ms. Granger has told you about the events two evenings previous?"

"Yes she has Sir," Harry responded.

"Well, since there is no way to change what has happened in the past, I can only give you advice for the present and answer any questions that you both most certainly have. Many things must be explained and I hope that I can put both of your minds at ease." Harry and Hermione both looked up at Professor Dumbledore. "Is there anything in particular you would like to know?"

Silence filled the hospital again.

"Where is Ron's body?" Hermione inquired.

"Back at the Weasley residence. They have decided to have the funeral this Saturday. If you both spend the rest of the week in the hospital, you'll both be well enough to join them."

Hermione looked at Harry. He didn't seem ready to ask any questions yet.

"Have the Malfoys been found yet?" She asked Dumbledore.

"Not yet, Ms. Granger. But I assure you, they will be caught in due time and sent to Azkaban with the other deatheaters."

Once more, silence filled the hospital as they sat around the table.

"My mother had an affair with Lord Voldemort." Harry whispered, staring at the empty plate before him. What Harry had just said wasn't as much a question as it was a statement.

"Yes Harry, she did," Dumbledore sighed. Harry's eyes met the professor's. The twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes were missing for the moment. Instead they were clouded with sadness.

"It is the main reason why Voldemort despised you so much," Dumbledore began to explain. "Back when your parents went to Hogwarts, Lord Voldemort, or Tom Riddle, as he was still called back then, loved your mother. In their seventh year, he told your mother but she was dating your father at the time and rejected Tom.

"After they had graduated from Hogwarts, your father decided to travel the world for a year and thought it would be too difficult to sustain a relationship with your mother, so they took a break. Your mother couldn't stand being alone and Tom became very close with her. Soon enough, they fell in love with each other but once again, your mother rejected Tom when your father returned from his travels.

"Your parents got married shortly after your father returned from his travels. Unbeknownst to your father, your mother had found out that she was carrying Tom Riddle's child before their marriage and kept it secret. Elise was born mid-August the year before you, Harry."

Harry looked up at Professor Dumbledore confused. "So if Elise is older than I am, then why was she in the same year as us?"

Professor Dumbledore looked at the puzzled Harry. "Well," he began. "She failed her N.E.W.T exams and was held back one year."

Harry looked at Hermione who was slightly grinning after hearing that bit of information.

"So what happened next Professor?" inquired Hermione. Harry turned his gaze back to Dumbledore awaiting his reply.

"Well, now that Elise was born and Lily couldn't tell James, she met up with Tom and gave Elise to him asking him to raise their child. He didn't want anything to do with the child though, knowing that Elise was of mixed blood. But your mother wouldn't take no for an answer and Elise was left with Tom.

"Soon after, your mother became pregnant again and you were born the following year in July. By that time though, Tom had changed his name to Lord Voldemort and had began his campaign of genocide. And the rest," he sighed, "is history."

Harry couldn't handle this new knowledge about his mother. He had always imagined her as loving and caring, perfect in every way. Yet, there was this completely new side of her that he had been exposed to.

"So my mother is the reason why Lord Voldemort terrorized mixed bloods and hated my family?" Harry quivered.

"Unfortunately yes, Harry," responded Dumbledore. "Lord Voldemort became very jealous of your father and mother's relationship and did not want to be the father of a mixed blood. So he decided to be rid of those who were not like him."

"Then why did he spare Elise?" questioned Hermione.

Dumbledore thought to himself for a second. "Well, even though he did atrocious things to others, he is still human. And there's something innately within us that knows that it is wrong to kill your own blood. Therefore, I hypothesize that Voldemort couldn't bring himself to murder his own child, knowing that she is his only heir."

All of the explanations were too much for Harry. He stood up from the table and turned towards the windows. Hermione turned to look at her best friend and Dumbledore quietly observed them both.

"How did you find out Hermione?" Harry demanded, not looking back at her. "How did you know that my mother was also Elise's?"

Hermione looked at Dumbledore and then guiltily looked at the floor.

"I found out in November while you were still dating Elise," she confessed. Harry turned towards her and waited for her to continue. Unable to look at him, she continued to stare at the floor.

"Ron was always busy playing chess and hanging out with the boys so I decided to spend my leisure time in the library doing extra homework. But I couldn't concentrate, I kept thinking about you and Elise and I had this feeling in my heart that something wasn't right. So I decided to do some research and soon enough, I put all the clues together and realized who she really was."

Harry walked over to her and kneeled in front of her. He realized that tears had began to soak her cheeks again. He cupped his hands around her face and gently brushed the tears away from her eyes.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked. Hermione looked into his searching emerald eyes. She couldn't bear the pierce of his gaze. His eyes were full of a thousand questions and she knew that she had betrayed their friendship by not telling him the truth.

"I'm sorry Harry," she apologized profusely. "I was just so jealous and couldn't think of the best way of telling you without sounding bitter. Plus, it concerned your mother and I didn't want you to think wrongly of her. So instead I told Professor Dumbledore because I knew that even if she wasn't currently posing a threat, there might be trouble in the future."

Harry switched his gaze towards the professor who looked back at him.

"It's true Harry," Dumbledore confirmed. "Hermione did come to me with this information, yet I assured her that I already knew and that we were taking measures to ensure that everyone remained safe in the school. She didn't seem to be following in her father's footsteps, but in the end, she deceived us all. Lord Voldemort had found a way to contact her through the Malfoys, which is how they were able to devise the plan to kidnap the three of you and bring you to the Dark Lord himself so that he could finally have the vengeance that he began thirsting for seventeen years prior."

Harry had heard enough. It was all too much. Ron's death. His mother's affair. Elise's betrayal. Hermione's secrets. He had had enough. He stood up and slowly backed away from Hermione and Dumbledore towards his cot.

"I can't listen anymore," he declared. "I've heard plenty for one day."

Hermione looked up at Harry with tears in her eyes. She realized that she had wronged him and now watched the consequences of her actions take a toll on her best friend. Dumbledore stood up from the table and with a simple whip of his wand, the plates were cleared and the table disappeared.

"Very well Mr. Potter," he sighed. "It is about time you rest some more. If you need anything else, you know where to find me." He looked over at Hermione who was still staring at Harry. "Ms. Granger." She didn't acknowledge his call.

"Ms. Granger," he repeated. Hermione broke her gaze and looked at Dumbledore's eyes. "You should rest as well. There will be more time to mourn for Ron and discuss what is to happen in the future. But for now, you must take care of yourself. Please. Rest."

Hermione nodded and lifted herself slowly from the chair and dragged her feet towards her bed. Harry had turned to the side facing the wall and was in his own thoughts. She looked back at Dumbledore who had began to take his leave from the hospital wing. She crawled between the cool sheets of her bed and turned towards Harry's cot. She wiped the tears from her face and took a deep breath.

"Please forgive me Harry," she whispered before turning onto her back to look towards the ceiling.

Hermione's plea reached Harry's ears as he stared at the castle wall. He needed time. Time to think. Time to heal. Time to mourn.

Wow! So the last time I had updated this story was back in 2004. Someone just recently added this story to their favourites so I feel guilty for not having finished the story yet. I believe there's still another chapter left in this saga of a tale. Once again, major apologies to those who have literally waited a couple of years for the next chapter. Anyway, enjoy and as always, don't forget to review.