George woke up the next morning in the dark. He was taken aback, as he had expected to awake to the blinding rays of the sun. He stood up and pulled up the blinds with a sharp yank. Dark clouds covered the sky and the sun was just a tiny red glimmer in the distance. He dressed quickly and stumbled downstairs in the darkness. He lit a fire in the fireplace and started turning on lights.
By the time Fred came down, he had breakfast ready and water boiling on the stove. "What, did the sun forget to set his alarm clock or something?" He rubbed his eyes sleepily, yawning. "Strange weather." George nodded. "I mean, we haven't had this kind of weather since…since…come to think of it, we've never had this type of weather."
Fred walked over to the table and picked up a small note that was lying there. "From Mum. She's gone to the Ministry with Dad. Says she doesn't know when she'll be back." He unrolled the newspaper and stared at it.
George looked up. "That's a Muggle paper. What's it doing here?"
"I dunno." Fred started reading. "Listen to this: 'Six homes in the area were broken into. Those that were unfortunate enough to be at home were found dead, while all their valuables were stolen.' Six houses." Fred shook his head in awe. "Poor Muggles."
"Murdered," George murmured. "Dark Wizards, do you think?" He took a bite out of his toast.
Fred shrugged and continued reading. Suddenly he dropped the paper down on the table. "Good god."
George looked up. "What?"
"It says, 'Condolences to the families Hewitt, Pritchard, Smith, Granger…' Granger. You don't think…?" Fred didn't finish his sentence. Hermione came through the door, supporting Ron.
George was at her side within a moment. "What happened?" Her face was red and there were dark circles around her eyes.
"Malfoy, he—" Ron winced as he sat down. "I didn't know he was killing people, I didn't know…"
"Oh, Hermione." George suddenly grabbed her and pulled her close. She remained silent as tears fell from her eyelashes.
"Has she been home?" Fred asked Ron quietly.
Ron shook his head. "No. I don't think she can take it." He rubbed his neck. It had been bothering him since he had woken up. He sighed deeply and looked up at his brother uncomfortably. "I did something horrible, Fred. I didn't know what I was doing—it just happened."
"Ron, don't," Hermione burst out, pulling away from George. "They don't need to know…As long as I know why you did it, and that you didn't know—God, Ron, why did you trust Malfoy? What were you thinking?" She thought she would be able to forgive him, but he made it so difficult.
"Hermione, I love you! I want to be there for you—all the time, through everything!" he cried, standing up. "I made a mistake—I know, but I couldn't help it, because I just wanted you so badly." Fred and George slowly and hesitantly backed away, though George was slightly more hesitant than his twin.
"This doesn't make it better, Ron!" Hermione said. "You loving me doesn't make a difference!"
"Hermione—" Ron interjected.
"You signed my parents' death warrant!" she shouted.
"I saved your life!" Ron yelled.
She stopped. "What?"
"Malfoy said if I didn't tell him where to find you, he'd find you himself and kill you." He collapsed back into the chair and put his head in his hands, exhausted.
She stood up and started toward the stairs, then stopped and turned around. "You should have let him," she said and went up the stairs.
Ron sat up in the dark room for hours, as the fire slowly turned to glimmering embers. He rubbed his arm absently. Ever since the fall it had been bothering him, a sort of stinging pain that never seemed to go away. Darkness slowly engulfed him and sleep finally took him.