Standing in the pretty churchyard a few miles from where The Burrow had once stood, Ginny drew support from her two brothers, who stood on either side of her. The trio were standing in front of a joint grave, which had just received its second body. Earlier that day, Molly Weasley had been laid to rest in a small ceremony, attended by a handful of people, and now the only people left in the churchyard were her three healthy children.
Upon learning that Ron, Bill and Charlie were missing along with Harry, Remus and Sirius, Molly had collapsed clutching her heart and had been rushed to hospital. She did survive the initial heart attack which put her in the hospital, but as no news was forthcoming about the missing members of her family she found it hard to gain the strength to recover. And then just over a week ago, the Ministry had informed the family that they were scaling down the search for those who were missing. Technically, their file would be kept open and it would be an ongoing investigation, but Tonks had admitted that it really meant the Ministry had given up hope of finding answers. To Molly, it was the final straw and as if accepting that three of her children were dead, she suffered a second, this time fatal, heart attack.
"Come on," Fred urged gently, tugging his sister away from their parents graveside.
The twins had arranged a small wake in the back room of the local pub. Their flat was too small to host even the smallest of gatherings, not to mention it was barely furnished. The Burrow was still a dangerous shell, and with Molly now gone, Percy still in his coma, Bill, Charlie and Ron missing, it was likely never going to be rebuilt. And as for Grimmauld Place, even though Ginny had been there until Molly had been rushed to hospital and then she'd either been at S Mungo's or with the twins, they knew they couldn't use it any longer as the house belonged to Sirius, and with him out of the picture it would most likely pass to his closest living relative, which was Bellatrix.
Arriving at the pub, the trio joined the small wake and made small talk with the old friends of Molly and Arthur who had attended the funeral. Among those in attendance was Augusta Longbottom, and after offering her condolences, she urged the trio to move on with their lives and not to waste them fighting a losing battle.
"Is she right?" Ginny asked as she and the twins settled down at the table where Tonks and McGonagall were sitting.
"Is who right about what?" Tonks asked.
"Neville's Gran," Ginny replied with a sigh. "She said that as tragic as things were for us, we shouldn't let that influence how we move on from here. She told us not to waste our lives fighting for something that can never be achieved."
"I do hate to admit defeat, but maybe in this case Augusta is right," McGonagall conceded with a frustrated sigh. "I think the time has come to take a step back and look at what we can realistically achieve. We have lost so many people, and people we might have been able to convince to join us won't consider it now Harry is missing."
"Or hiding out trying to gain sympathy," George remarked, referencing the theory that had swept the wizarding world over the last couple of months. "Even if we could find him and the others, or they turned up, no-one is going to believe a word they said. Let's face it, The Order is dead."
"So we just do nothing and let Hermione and her father rule the country?" Ginny asked.
"Isn't that what they're already doing?" Fred questioned. "I know what sort of wizard he is, and I know what he's done in the past, but you have to admit, things haven't really changed much with him in charge."
"Not yet, but they will," Tonks cautioned. "With Dumbledore dead and Harry missing, he'll start to assert his authority."
"And do you think people will rise up against him?" Ginny asked.
"I don't know," Tonks admitted with a shrug. "I guess it depends what he does. But also, it'll depend on if anyone thinks they can take him and his Death Eaters on."
"Not just his Death Eaters," McGonagall cautioned. "Don't forget Hermione and her friends. Not to mention other students. Bellatrix is still teaching them how to fight, and of course she's also teaching dark magic. Dark magic is alluring, and the younger generation won't want to rebel against the wizard allowing them to explore magic that was once forbidden to them."
"So what are we saying?" Ginny asked, looking between her brothers and the two older witches. "We accept that we've lost, and there's nothing to be done about You-Know-Who and his daughter."
"I rather think that is our only option," McGonagall admitted with a shrug. "Without Albus and Harry, all we can really do is be prepared in case he pushes it too far. If he does something too extreme, we might find people who are willing to stand up to him. In that case, I say we fight to bring the lightness back to our world. But if that never happens, all we can do is stay safe and try to protect those more vulnerable than ourselves."
"So you'll be going back to Hogwarts next year?" Tonks asked. The school year had ended a few days ago, and already rumours were rife at the Ministry that Severus planned on overhauling the staff and hiring several new Professors.
"Unless I get fired, and Severus has no reason to get rid of me," McGonagall replied. "I do believe that as long as I cause no trouble, my job will be safe. And the castle needs Professors who aren't servants of You-Know-Who. I will curb my desire to fight back for those students in my care who need some lightness in their lives. It may not be saving the world, but I believe I can still make a difference at Hogwarts. I believe I can still save some of the students from losing themselves in the darkness."
"I think that is the right thing to do," Ginny agreed with a nod. "And I can see why Tonks needs to keep her head down and stay at the Ministry. We need people in positions of authority who aren't his supporters."
"What are you planning, Ginny?" Fred asked with a frown.
"Nothing," Ginny answered. "You're right, we can't just keep fighting the way we have been. We have to just accept the way things are. But I think we should be prepared in case he does something that gives us the opportunity to get rid of him."
"And if that opportunity never arises?" George asked his sister.
"Then it doesn't," Ginny replied with a shrug of her shoulder. "We've already lost so much, I don't think I can bare to lose anything more. Maybe as a Gryffindor I should be fighting to avenge the loved ones who are no longer with us, but surely there's a difference between bravery and stupidity. It's crazy to do the same things time and time again and expect a different outcome. They may not like it, or have done the same thing, but I say we should honour the people who we've lost by living our lives."
"I'll drink to that," Tonks said with a small smile.
After a toast to living their lives, McGonagall raised the topic of those who were missing and if they were any closer to discovering what had happened. Of course none of them believed the wild stories of Harry and the others faking their disappearances. They all believed Voldemort was behind them going missing, but proving it was another thing. And without proof, they knew no-one would ever believe them if they accused Voldemort or anyone close to him. It was one of those situations where fighting was the reckless thing to do.
"I think we're all in agreement that something went wrong when they went up to Hogsmeade," Fred said. "And George and I have to hold our hands up here. We knew they were planning something, so we warned Hermione she wasn't as safe as she thought in the castle."
"We didn't give specifics, or even let her know who the warning came from, but we think it was enough to set on her alert," George added.
"But she couldn't have been involved in anything that happened," McGonagall argued. "She wasn't even down in Hogsmeade that weekend. And her friends weren't down there very long either thanks to Zabini injuring his foot."
"We know Hermione wasn't involved, or we're pretty sure she wasn't," George said. "We think she may have told her father about the warning, and he had people up in Hogsmeade looking out for her."
"No-one from the village will admit to having seen anything, but it doesn't mean Harry and the others went completely under the radar," Fred said. "They could have been seen by one of You-Know-Who's men. The truth is, we will likely never know for sure."
"So we can torture ourselves for the rest of our lives, blaming ourselves for something that might not even be our fault, or we can do our best to carry on living," George said. "The fact is, without a confession from whomever was involved, we will never know what happened to our brothers. We know that if they could come back to us, they would have. So we have to accept that they can't, and won't be coming back."
McGonagall nodded, understanding where the Weasleys were coming from. Of course answers would be what they wanted more than anything, but it would only bring them more heartache to continue to search for answers they were never going to find. As painful as it was, their attitude was the healthiest way of looking at things. They'd accepted that the missing group were lost to them, and all they could do was pick up the pieces and move on with their lives the best they could. And if that meant accepting Voldemort as Minister of Magic, then so be it. It might not be forever, and one day they might just get the chance to remove him from power and bring down both him and his daughter. But for now, they had lost and the dark had won.
"Are you disappointed?" Draco questioned, wandering out onto the balcony in his bedroom, where Hermione was standing gazing out over the manor's moonlit gardens.
"What part of two orgasms and 'oh god Draco, you're amazing' leads you to think you were a disappointment?" Hermione snorted, arching her eyebrows at her boyfriend, who like her, was still naked.
While their parents were in attendance at a Ministry function, Draco and Hermione had been left alone at Malfoy Manor, and even with Voldemort's warning to them to be careful, they had hurried straight to bed, where they had spent the last hour making the most of Draco's large bed. It had only been when Draco headed off to the bathroom that Hermione had wandered out onto the balcony.
"I didn't ask if I was a disappointment, I know I'm not," Draco smirked.
"Such ego," Hermione chuckled with a playful roll of her eyes.
"I asked if you were disappointed," Draco continued. "I meant in regards to Potter and Weasley."
"Ah, that," Hermione said softly, turning her gaze back to the moonlit gardens down below them. "Truthfully, I don't really know."
Earlier that day, Voldemort had informed Hermione that Harry and Ron were dead. Sirius and Remus had been killed before school had even ended for the term. Remus had suffered a head injury in the ambush and had never fully regained use of his faculties before Voldemort had decided to put him out of his misery. As for Sirius, he'd gone mad when Remus had been killed and he'd attacked Lucius, who had been there with Voldemort at the time. The ensuing scuffle had resulted in several fractured ribs for Lucius and a broken neck for Sirius.
As for Bill and Charlie, Voldemort had been more lenient with them and rather than kill them, he'd obliviated them both and sent them to opposite sides of the world. Bill had been sent to Australia, while Charlie had ended up in Brazil. What either of them were now doing, or if they were living as wizards or muggles, Hermione didn't know. She just knew that they were gone, and they would no longer be causing them any trouble.
Of course there had never been any question of Harry and Ron escaping with their lives. Not only was Harry prophesied to potentially be Voldemort's downfall, but they'd tried to kill Hermione. For that alone, they were always destined to die at The Dark Lord's hands. As for how it was done, Voldemort had tortured and killed Ron right in front of Harry's eyes, before leaving him alone overnight with the corpse of his dead best friend. He'd then returned the following day to finish the job and rid the world of Harry Potter.
"Do you wish you'd been there?" Draco asked, wrapping his arms around Hermione and pulling her against his solid chest.
"After we saw them that time, I told Father I wasn't bothered what happened to them and I had no desire to be involved further," Hermione said. "And I meant it. I guess I just feel cheated slightly that everything was wrapped up so easily. I was rather looking forward to utilising my new fighting skills."
"You never know, you might need to use them one day," Draco said. "Even though Potter and Weasley are gone, you and your father might still face further threats."
"Would anyone dare go up against us?" Hermione asked.
"Not at this minute in time, but who knows what will happen in the future," Draco replied. "It's best to be prepared, and that means learning all we can from Bella next year. A rebellion might never happen, especially with Potter off the scene, but you can never predict the future."
"You're right, it's best to be ready," Hermione agreed with a nod. "As for predicting the future, I have to argue with you there. I can confidently predict what our future holds."
"Yeah, and what's that?" Draco asked with a smirk as he spun Hermione around in his arms so they were facing each other.
"Lots and lots of sex, and that's just tonight," Hermione replied with a laugh. Moving out of Draco's arms, she backed away towards his bedroom, beckoning for him to follow her. "Are you coming?"
"How can I refuse," Draco chuckled, stalking after Hermione.
Not bothering to close the balcony doors, he grabbed his girlfriend before she reached the bed and crashed his lips to hers. Eagerly returning the kiss, Hermione wrapped her arms around Draco's neck and pressed her naked curves against his bare flesh. With a low growl, Draco tumbled Hermione onto his bed and quickly pinned her beneath him.
"Hmm, how I love having you at my mercy," he purred, gazing down at his gorgeously naked girlfriend.
"And what are you going to do to me?" Hermione asked, eager to hear what was in store for her.
"Everything I can think of," Draco vowed. "I hope my parents don't come home anytime soon, because I plan to have the manor shaking with the sound of you screaming my name."
"Oh, promises, promises," Hermione laughed, pulling Draco down on top of her so their lips were mere inches apart. "Don't just talk Draco, I want action."
"And you'll have it, my Slytherin Princess," Draco promised, connecting their lips in a searing kiss as his hands slid down her naked body, each of them totally content in the fact that right at this moment their lives were perfect. The dark were on top and in charge, and the future was bright for the young couple who could one day rule the world.
A/N – That's it for this story. I want to thank you all for reading and reviewing, and I hope you all enjoyed this story. Aside from my Christmas stories, this will likely be my last longer story for a while as I have no more finished stories to publish. However, I do have a few one shots and collection pieces to publish in the new year, and I hope to manage more writing next year, so with any luck I will be back some time in the first half of next year with a longer story. In the meantime, thanks again for reading and I hope you enjoy the few shorter pieces I've got coming your way in the next couple of months.