(A/N: Hi. I'm sure most of you probably thought I'd died or given up on the story or something but here it is, the last chapter, the end. I realize I had promised shorter chapters and quicker updates but I like this last chapter being it's ridiculous length and I suppose it messes with your mind more and has a more dramatic effect. But anyways, I just want to say thank you for making this story such a success. It's challenged me in ways I haven't been challenged before (which is a good thing) and the response I've gotten from it is absolutely astounding. I've been so very impressed and inspired by all of you, especially when I've pushed the envelope and not delivered updates when promised. Thank you all for caring, otherwise I would have ended it back about 20 chapters or so ago like I originally had planned. I really hope you all have liked it, it's been so much fun to write. So yea, that's it, enjoy this last 27 paged chapter, and it's been fun! Much love and Thanks, Haystack)
CHAPTER FOURTY-TWO: FINALTY
Clutching herself, Hermione was losing all control. The reality was slowly sinking in, and she was at a loss of how to process it all. Sobs choking up her throat, her knees trembled as if they were about to give way.
Ron was alive. Charlie was dead.
Hermione looked down at Ron through blurry eyes, only to find him still staring at her in shock. His expression hadn't changed, he hadn't moved since he'd opened his eyes.
Oh God he was alive!
Without thinking, Hermione threw herself into Ron's arms, kneeling on the ground next to him, closing the gap between them.
Ron's mind was blank. In the back of his mind, he was acutely aware that his face must be reflecting it but for now he didn't care. It was Hermione after all.
Before he had time to comprehend what her being there meant; she was in his arms.
Ron had almost forgotten what she'd felt like. It was like a return to his soul. Slowly, he raised his arms to wrap them around her waist. And the moment his hands made contact with her flesh, it was if something went off inside Ron.
Hermione, the girl he loved was safe. She was safe and wholly here in his arms. She wasn't dead or hurt or suffering. She was with him, just like she'd always promised. Just like she always had been.
A fresh wave of tears escaped him as he clung to her as tight as he possibly could. Tears full of despair, of suffering, of love…they poured out of his blue eyes, into the frizzy mass of hair his face was buried into.
"Shh…" He heard her whisper, her hand reaching up to the back of head, stroking his hair gently. The mere tone of her voice made Ron want to cry forever. "I'm here. I'm here."
Words couldn't express the emotion attached to her words. That she really could be here, when just moments ago he'd been about to give up his life because he was alone, made Ron's tears run with irony. He held onto her tighter.
But Hermione pulled away, looking at him intently. Ron searched her eyes, bringing his calloused hands up to her face, running his thumbs over her tears; making sure she was okay. She laughed at his gesture, placing her hand on top of his. "I'm really okay," she whispered, looking deep into his blue orbs.
He held her eye contact for a moment before letting his face break into a small smile strained with tears. The muscles in his face twitched as he did so; it had been a long time since he'd smiled. "I-I can't believe you're here" He said quietly, his hand still to her face.
"I know" Hermione said softly, looking to the ground, "I thought you'd be dead"
The comment made something in Ron go off. Almost as if it was a reminder to Ron of the reality faced before him, Ron tore his eyes from Hermione to look down at Charlie's head, which was still in his lap. Hermione's eyes followed him there and Ron could almost feel her chocolate eyes spring back up to watch him. "R-Ron…" Her voice broke, tears evident not only on her puffy red face but also in her voice. "I'm so sorry."
Hearing her say that made something in Ron's stomach drop. To hear her acknowledge his death like that made it real on a different level. Tears still flowing Ron wiped at them ashamed. Hermione, who'd temporarily stopped crying, began again, taking him into her arms, almost as if she were his mum. Letting her gather him up, Ron buried himself in her scent, holding onto his last sense of sanity; listening to her speak through her own tears. Hearing her cry made Ron feel better. She'd known Charlie; he wasn't alone in his grieving. Hermione understood.
"I'm so sorry Ron. He didn't deserve to go like this." Hermione managed to say,
Ron continued to cry, burying himself in her. He felt better crying like this.
"I-I thought he was you" Hermione said so quietly Ron had trouble hearing her.
She twisted to look at him, her brown eyes filled with grief, pain, and guilt. "I thought you were the one dead."
Ron was quiet for a moment, understanding. Looking up at her, she was biting her lip, guilt obviously taking control of her. "I'm sorry Ron" She cried, "But I just…I know it's horrible but I'm so glad you weren't the one dead" She said tearfully, leaning down to kiss him softly. "So glad…"
As she kissed him again, Ron's mind was on overload. For a moment or two he was angry with her for suggesting such things. He deserved to die. Not Charlie…
But after a moment the anger vanished and he began to kiss her back, thanking anything that came to mind for her safety.
When they broke apart, Hermione looked at him nervously, obviously unsure as to how he would respond. Ron looked at her and said, "N-no…I understand."
Hermione took his hand in hers whispering, "I'm going to miss him too"
And as they hugged, Ron knew that somehow he was going to make it through this.
Hearing a soft cough, Hermione turned to look at Luna, suddenly remembering that she was there. Slightly embarrassed, Hermione looked down, her cheeks a soft pink. "Ron, " she said gently, "Luna's alive."
Ron's eyes had widened, taking in the dirty girl's appearance. His face broke into a smile as he gingerly got up to embrace the Ravenclaw who had always stood by them.
As Hermione watched, her heart lifted with hope. Things would be all right if they could just stick together. Maybe it was possible to come out of this thing alive…
Luna was crying as Ron let go of her. "I can't believe you're alive." She said
"You too" Ron said, holding her at arms length to look her over. "Where have you been all this time?"
"In the forest." She said calmly as Ron's eyes widened again. "But I wasn't alone all the time."
Ron nodded, looking around them, feeling irony all around him. How was it that continuously, despite the horrors, goodness could find him? That life could thrash him around, kill his brother and best friend yet still deliver Hermione to him again and again, completely unharmed? How was it fair? How had Luna survived almost a week in the forest alone when others were dead within five minutes of stepping onto the very same soil? It didn't make any sense….
A resounding boom in the distance however, broke his train of thought as all three former students jumped.
Hearts beating, each looked at the other. "What do you think that was?" Luna asked softly.
"I don't know…" Ron said, not seeing anything but a red glow in the distance.
"Let's go" Hermione said, moving closer to Ron and Luna. "Someone will be coming soon"
"Where do we go?" Luna asked, "I can't think of a safe spot for miles."
"W-well, let's just go away from where that explosion happened." Hermione said as she began walking away.
Ron, who hadn't said anything for a few moments remained still, his senses heightened. Hearing the screams, smelling the smoke, knowing the death that was occurring only a precious few feet away from them…he shook his head, knowing what they had to do but not wanting to do it.
"Hermione stop" He snapped as Luna and Hermione froze where they were. He sighed at their expressions. "Do you have your wand?" He asked in a somber voice
"Y-yes…" She replied, hesitant at where he was going with the question.
Running a hand through his red hair, Ron walked over to Charlie's corpse in silence. Dragging it along the leaves and dirt, he placed it under a strong looking tree where he piled thin dirt and rocks over the body, coating Charlie's body with black and brown. Kissing his brother's cheek, he stood up.
To do what they had to do, he had to put Charlie behind him. He couldn't be weak any longer.
"Come on" He said quietly, not looking at the two girls who were watching him. And with that he began to walk the opposite direction, towards the fire.
Hermione wanted to speak, wanted to shout out how they couldn't do this, how it would be an automatic death sentence, how scared she was. A million different thoughts were pounding in her head as she watched him walk away but the only one she could hear was 'He's walking alone'
In all her years with Harry and Ron, they had never left each other alone. Not if they could help it.
And with that, Hermione looked at Luna's frightened face. They didn't say anything but Luna knew what her decision was with one glance. Slowly taking her wand out of her back pocket, Hermione, without a glance back, began running towards Ron.
As she fell in line with Ron, she snuck a glance at him. His jaw was set, his eyes stared straight ahead, and his muscles tense, holding out his wand. Hermione leaned beside him, taking his free hand in hers. Ron continued to stare straight ahead but there was a soft smile on his lips, and Hermione knew in that instant that despite his battle persona, Ron really and truly loved her.
It was a strange feeling to be walking towards her death with a smile on her face and happiness in her heart.
Neither Ron nor Hermione said anything as they made the walk towards the fire, hearts beating, and senses working on overdrive. Hermione looked around her, smelling the burning, smelling the smoke, and blinking her eyes so that her eyes wouldn't water over.
It was a strange way to approach such a situation. The closer they got, the more people they started seeing, some running right past them. They were no longer holding hands, both on absolute alert. Things were boiling down to this moment, and they couldn't risk anything distracting them from it. Hermione was currently crouching behind a tree as a Death Eater ran screaming towards the fire, killing people as they ran from it.
"AAAARRGHHHH!" He screamed, preying upon a person who Hermione couldn't see. Their shadowy figure twitched as they fell to the ground. Hermione squeezed her eyes shut, looking around for Ron just to verify that he was where he'd been a few moments ago.
Ron's face was contorted into one of agony as he looked down at the body of the latest victim of Voldemort, hiding behind a tree several feet away.
Feeling more at ease knowing where Ron was, Hermione turned her attention to the corpse that had so attracted Ron's attention.
It was a child.
Hermione gasped, looking more closely to be sure she was seeing correctly. A child? But…where had he come from? There hadn't been any kids who'd made it safely to Order headquarters…
And as Hermione heard a rustle in the bushes behind her she understood. This little boy was from Hogwarts. Whipping her wand out, she approached the bushy silently and slowly. Peeling back the leaves, she prepared the curse she'd use at the first sign of danger.
A pair of blue eyes belonging to a little girl with brown curly hair met Hermione's menacing looking face. The little girl yelped, backing away on her hands and knees, crouched as far back as she could go without leaving the safety the bush provided. Hermione stepped back, shocked as she looked around and saw three other little bodies in the fetal position lying near the curly haired girl.
All four were wearing their pajamas, covered in filth, looking more like skeletons than anything else and Hermione was overcome with the biggest urge to cry. Knowing she had to say something, she looked around her making sure the coast was clear before kneeling down and crawling into the bush.
The eleven year olds squealed with fear as they heard her approach, all of their eyes squeezed shut.
"I'm not going to hurt you." She said softly as she continued crawling in. One little boy opened his eyes. "Shh…." She said as approached him, offering him her hand. "It's okay. I go to Hogwarts too."
With that, all four opened their eyes, looking at Hermione with a hard glance that only one accustomed to war would use. Analyzing her every potential motive for coming here, the curly haired girl sat up, followed by the little boy. The others soon followed suit and Hermione could see the relief in their faces as they approached her.
"You go to Hogwarts?" The boy whispered
"Yea I do. Well I did. I'm a seventh year."
"You're Hermione Granger aren't you?" The curly haired girl asked softly
"Yea I am. How did you know?" Hermione asked, surprised
"I'm a Gryffindor." She said plainly, "You saved our lives"
With the girl's innocent comment, Hermione was suddenly hit was a million different emotions so powerful they threatened to knock her over. She remembered running into a burning Hogwarts, cutting down the door, telling the kids to run for the Whomping Willow…
"Y-You didn't make it to Hogsmeade" She said somberly, grief eating away at her. It wasn't a question. How many kids had survived? Had she single-handedly killed off six years of Gryffindors with her advice? Who knew what she'd done…
"Some did," A blond haired boy, said, "We just didn't."
"W-Why not?" Hermione asked, voice strained
"Death Eaters," They said simply.
Hermione closed her eyes, picturing the scenario. Of course that many kids together would have attracted attention, the Death Eaters would have swooped down and killed them all in one sitting, only a few able to escape, only a few able to make it to safety…
Tears of anger threatened to bubble over. With great difficulty Hermione managed to ask, "How many?"
The kids all looked at each other thinking hard. Hermione waited in the silence that was broken by a sudden hand reached into the bush grabbing Hermione's arm. The kids screamed as Hermione used her free hand to burn the intruder's hand. Standing to her feet immediately, she was met by an angry looking Ron who was holding his hand with pain.
Grabbing her arm, he ripped her away from the bushes, pushing her to the ground where he fell to the ground a moment later. "Where were you?" he hissed
"I'm sorry I--"
"Never mind it. I was just scared." Ron said, his voice breaking a bit and Hermione was immediately regretful of leaving him.
Looking around her briefly Hermione realized suddenly that the war had moved. There were people everywhere. The tree she had been hiding behind a moment earlier was burned.
People were screaming, Death Eaters were laughing, and loud and clear a voice rang through the commotion. "KILL THEM ALL! GET THEM, TORTURE THEM, AND LEAVE NO ONE ALIVE. YOU KNOW WHO WE NEED TO FIND, TAKE THE ONES WHO KNOW AND BRING THEM TO ME!"
Insides cold, Hermione began to shake. "W-what?" she whispered
"Voldemort" Ron whispered back, the fear evident not only in his voice.
"Just now" Ron breathed, looking around them. "'Mione, everyone's here."
"What do you mean?" She asked in disbelief.
"I mean my family, Ginny, Neville, Mad Eye, Lupin, the Order, everyone"
"I-" Hermione was cut off by the ear shattering boom of another explosion. Debris and fire burning her skin, she pressed her face to the ground, not able to breathe, in excruciating pain.
Hermione felt herself being pulled up to her feet as the smell of Ron met her senses. Opening her eyes to find the smoke clearing, she looked around her, as bodies were everywhere.
The children in the bushes lay dead, burn marks on their bodies as Hermione felt the wind get knocked out of her and tears choking her up.
"We have to fight him now" Ron said urgently, looking around them
Hermione nodded numbly as Ron lead the way and they began to run towards the loud booming voice that echoed across hell.
"HAHAHAHAHAHA! GOOD WORK! NOW BRING THE TRAITORS TO ME AND WE SHALL CONTINUE OUR SEARCH FOR POTTER'S FRIENDS!"
Hermione felt her mind cease to exist as the words 'Potters friends' echoed through her mind. This…all this was because of her and Ron.
"MY LORD! THERE THEY ARE!" she heard a voice behind her scream
"KEEP RUNNING!" she shouted to Ron who was in front of her. They could out run Death Eaters for a while, they just needed to get to Voldemort.
"GET THEM! THERE THEY ARE!"
Hermione felt her heart squeeze in fear as she heard the footsteps behind her. She didn't need to look to know they were there.
The fire was eating away the bushes and trees and the dead bodies were so numerous Hermione couldn't help but step on them, feeling guilty with each step. She knew she didn't want to look at their identities but she couldn't help it.
The familiar faces of her past were all coming back to haunt her in one horrifying moment. She looked around her at the obvious faces of a dead Mad- Eye Moody, Bill, and Kingsley and felt her whole being begin to crumble.
"HERMIONE THEY'RE COMING THIS WAY!"
They turned and she lead the way, running and jumping over the bodies of Mr. Weasley, Hestia Jones, and Lee Jordan.
Hermione didn't have time to react before turning again. The Death Eaters were circling around them just like Seamus and Lavender before they died. Pressing her back to Ron, she looked desperately around for some kind of exit as the white hooded figures closed in on them.
"Ron…" She whispered
"I-I don't know what to do,"
"There has to be a way to get out of this"
"Hermione look around, we're trapped"
"No we're not. Ron it can't be like this!"
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" She heard herself scream as the Death Eater nearest her fell to the ground with a loud thump.
There was one moment of silence before the Death Eaters began screaming.
"WHO IS IT?"
"SHE JUST KILLED HIM!"
"SHE'S GONNA PAY FOR THAT!"
"Hermione…" Ron said with horror
Hermione was speechless; staring at the corpse of the man she killed knowing full and well what she'd just done. This would anger them, they would be ruthless, she, in one moment of panic, had just sentenced her and Ron to death. NO NO NO, she screamed internally.
The Death Eaters came then, taking a hold of Hermione and ripping her away from Ron.
"HERMIONE!" She heard Ron scream as she lost sight of him, the eight Death Eaters surrounding her, throwing curses at her body.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she tried not to scream as the fire ate away at her body. Feeling the combination of the eight curses her body began to twitch involuntarily, her mind turning to mush, losing all recollection of everything.
But suddenly it stopped. Hearing loud noises of commotion, Hermione gingerly opened her eyes, only to be scooped up into the arms of Neville.
"Are you okay!" Neville asked her as he blocked her body from the curses being thrown at them.
"I-I" Hermione didn't know what to say as she looked around to see the blurry forms of Lupin, Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, Hagrid, Justin Finch- Fletchly, Amos Diggory, Ludo Bagman, Cormac McLaggen, Alicia Spinnet, Luna, Ginny, Fred, George, and Dumbledore battling Death Eaters.
Gaining strength back just from looking at them, Hermione managed to pull her aching body upright and onto her feet, Neville still blocking her. "Take it easy," He said to her gently, helping her onto her feet
"I-I think I'll be okay" She said
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes, yes, I'll be fine"
People were falling, battles were being won and lost. And as Hermione watched as Fred Weasley fell to the ground she couldn't help but scream out. "FRED!" She shrieked, running towards his limp body, leaving Neville behind.
"HERMIONE! HERMIONE COME BACK!"
Kneeling beside him she placed a frantic hand on his forehead and reached for his arm in order to find a pulse. "No, no, no, come on! Come on Fred! Damn it!" His body never moved.
Tears that had been welling up for a while somehow managed to push through the strong fortress Hermione had put up. She hadn't wanted to cry anymore, she couldn't cry anymore…
But she was.
She was leaning back, her hands covering her face as the tears racked through her body. "No…" She moaned as Fred's piercing blue eyes gazed at her still.
And as she sat there sobbing in her grief, she didn't seem to sense the person behind her until their voice, their icy breath of voice cut through the grief in a way Hermione had never known.
"Funny, I never fancied seeing the great Hermione Granger abandon her fellow comrades to sit and cry about a boy" Voldemort said lazily
Hermione froze upon hearing his voice, slowing lowering her hands from her face and sitting upright.
"It's always interesting to see how things work out" Voldemort continued, the taunting edge of his voice not lost on her. "Here I am thinking to myself that this mudblood and blood traitor must be as powerful as Potter himself in order to have escaped my prison and disappear to a place where I can't find them."
Hermione's breath quickened. Putting pressure on her fingers, she felt her wand beneath them, the only thing keeping her sane and free of terrifying fear.
"You can imagine how frustrating it was. I travel to the Muggle world, burn your house and kill your parents and--"
Hermione froze. "You killed my parents?"
Voldemort chuckled, knelt down and pushed his face into Hermione's. She backed away, disgusted by the red eyes and the slits of an excuse of a nose. Voldemort breathed in her face, taking his time to answer. "Yesss" He drawled, sounding like a snake, "After what you and the god-damned Weasley boy did to me, it was the least I could do."
Standing up as he began to walk lazily around her, Hermione felt her body threatening to collapse. 'No no no no…. they can't be… I--' Hermione gasped as she tried to deny what her mind was saying, "I wasn't there to protect them like I always promised…'"
It was as if Voldemort had kicked her in the stomach. She felt empty as she could almost feel her heart bleeding. Her breaths were coming in loud wheezing gasps as she put her wrists to her forehead.
'They're gone. They're gone and I didn't get to say goodbye. I didn't get to tell them how much I loved them. I'll never hear their voices, smell Mum's perfume, I'll never see them again!'
She just couldn't stop the tears from gathering in her eyes.
'They won't be at my wedding…t-they' Hermione felt a tear slide down her cheek 'didn't even know I was engaged… they won't be here for--'
"NOOO!" A sudden scream sounded, instantly breaking Hermione of her thoughts. "GEORGE, GINNY, WATCH OUT! AAAAAAHHHHHH!"
She didn't need to hear it twice to know it was Mrs. Weasley's dying scream.
With a hand to her mouth, Hermione closed her eyes and looked away, unable to watch as the woman who had been her mother for seven years fell to the ground.
The Death Eaters surrounding Mrs. Weasley were laughing and for some reason, Hermione hated the sound more than the death scream.
Still looking away, Hermione couldn't help the three tears that slipped from her eyes. It wasn't an open sob, it didn't make any sound, but the silent kind was always the worst.
Her mind was reeling. Her parents and Mrs. Weasley, all in a few split seconds? No, she couldn't accept it, she couldn't fathom, she didn't want to imagine…
Voldemort looking on, laughed, and began to applaud the creamy skinned, red haired corpse now lying on the ground, looking at Hermione for her reaction. Biting the insides of her mouth as hard as she possibly could, a loathing and hatred she had never known for the man before her suddenly took over her body.
Still laughing, Voldemort turned to her. "You see? Two Weasleys down in the past ten minutes." He paused, suddenly serious again. "It shouldn't surprise you that I won't rest until every single Weasley's head is on my desk."
Looking on in the distance, Hermione watched as George and Ginny Weasley ran to their mother's side, frantically trying to revive her.
"Ginny! Find her pulse!" George ordered, panic obvious in his every word
"I'm trying! I can't find it!"
"Well try harder damn it!" George yelled desperately
"George" Ginny sobbed, "It's not here!"
It was the most heart wrenching thing she'd ever experienced, watching as a defeated George and Ginny began to cry over their dead mother, the one who'd held everything together for them all their lives. The scene hit Hermione harder than anything so far as more tears seeped from her eyes down her face.
"Ah yes, losing a mother is one of the worst experiences of life. What a shame it had to happen." Voldemort said with obvious sarcasm in his voice. "I must admit I was quite surprised to see you here by Fred Weasley's side and not by the side of, I do believe the correct term is fiancée now isn't it?" He spat each word with disgust. "Don't look so surprised" He hissed, at her expression "I have my ways of knowing and I know all about your sickening little romance."
Hermione whipped her head to look at him, finding a courage she didn't know existed. "Took you long enough though didn't it?" she muttered through her tears
"DON'T TOY WITH ME MUDBLOOD" Voldemort suddenly raged. Hermione backed away, on her hands and knees, looking up at the monster in fear as he approached her and grabbed her neck, pulling her to her feet. "Tell me, how did you escape my prison?" He hissed, his rage evident in every word. "How did you escape when I had Death Eaters positioned all around! How did you manage to outrun my Death Eaters, weak as you were!"
Unable to breathe, Hermione clawed at Voldemort's hands. "TELL ME!" He roared, before throwing her onto the ground.
Weak from the lack of oxygen and dizzy from the sudden availability of it, Hermione didn't bother covering herself as she fell to the ground, hitting her back on a small rock. "AHH!" she cried
But Voldemort was on the warpath and he immediately approached her again shouting, "Do you have any idea what you have done to me? My Death Eaters won't look at me the same anymore! Harry Potter's death means nothing with you and the Weasel running around still somehow fighting me! How can I command the world if I can't stop the pitiful resistance you two lead!"
Hermione was lifting herself up, weakly getting to her feet as she staggered backwards. Voldemort wasn't attacking her anymore, he just screaming in her face, a rage unlike any other Hermione had seen spewing towards her.
"Who would have thought! I certainly wouldn't have predicted that Potter would fall before you both, everyone assumed you two would be the easy ones to kill, that Potter would be the challenge. Well let me just say this, I didn't have to kill this many people to get to Potter!"
Hermione's mind was going numb with all the information being thrown at her, what did he mean kill more people?
"You and Weasley are the last bit of business to take care of." Voldemort laughed uncertainly and weakly" Yes, once I'm through with you, I'll continue my plans. There will be no one to stop me, no one to resist me. Thankfully, Viktor Krum provided me with all necessary information so I will destroy everyone involved with this Order!"
She froze. 'Viktor…'
"What? You didn't know? You didn't know I had one of my most faithful Death Eaters go to his house, tie him up and throw unforgivables at him until his blood ran down the sides of the table? That I had him begging and pleading for death, his screams echoing all throughout the house, with no one to hear him, no one to come rescue him?"
Her hands were at her head, her breaths coming in labored gasps, her eyes squeezed tight. She was going insane; she was literally being driven insane. Her brain couldn't handle it anymore, her mind couldn't process it, her heart couldn't take it.
'He died because of me.' She repeated over and over again in her head, 'He died alone, he died helpless and afraid, he died protecting us. He died innocent. He died because of me, he died because of me…'
"HERMIONE! HERMIONE!" Viktor's voice rang in her ears
"Stop it, stop!"
"Stop!" she panted
"Leave me alone!" she pleaded
"LEAVE ME ALONE!" She screamed as she felt someone grab her shoulders.
"'Mione, you okay?" Ron's voice cut through
Hermione opened her eyes to see a sweaty, burned, and bleeding Ron duck a curse that was heading in their direction.
"Come to save your beloved Mudblood have you Weasley? Afraid she couldn't take the heartache?" Voldemort taunted, a sick smile playing on his lips at he looked in Hermione's direction
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Ron screamed as he quickly pulled Hermione to him for a quick hug.
"You okay?" He asked, looking at her briefly
Shaking still from earlier, Hermione looked around her to get her bearings and to collect herself. 'How could I let myself do that?' she thought angrily 'I was completely at his mercy! He could have killed me then!'
Things were getting darker, a smoky sky mirroring the dried mud they were battling on, people all around them fighting and suddenly Hermione realized that this was it. Ron was here now; this was their chance to kill Voldemort once and for all.
"I'm fine," She said, looking up at Ron's dirty face and loving the contrast of his stunning blue eyes. He nodded at her, and even though there wasn't time for loving words, they both felt it.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Voldemort shouted
"Duck!" She cried as the curse came towards them both
Ducking quickly, both of their reflexes working magically, they crouched together, Hermione feeling the heat of Ron's body and feeling his blood drip onto her skin.
"You're hurt." She said simply and urgently
"I'm fine" Ron said, putting a hand on his wounded arm. "Just a little accident with a particularly nasty giant"
"Furnunculus!" Voldemort yelled and missed
"Hermione" Ron said urgently, turning to look at her and making eye contact, "Mum's dead"
Hermione looked away and bit her lip, "I know…" She said softly
"I-I saw George and Ginny by her side and I just--" Ron stopped mid sentence, the tears already building up in his eyes
Hermione looked at the ground for a moment before whispering quietly, "My parents too."
"What?" Ron looked at her as if he'd heard wrong.
"Voldemort killed my parents."
Understanding, concern, pity and sadness all flashed across Ron's face before he said, "'Mione I'm so--"
"Viktor too you know." Hermione said, breezing over the words in hopes that they wouldn't have such an effect over her. "Same with Fred."
A thousand different emotions were painted upon Ron's face. Speechless, Ron luckily was saved the task of responding when Voldemort suddenly screamed, "AVADA KEDAVRA!" which made them both jump to their feet.
Attempting to put everything aside, the two shared one look before turning their attention to Voldemort. He needed to die, once and for all.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" they cried in unison as the curse hit Voldemort square in the chest.
The impact threw him off his feet as he landed on his back, unmoving. Hermione let out her air in a shaky breath, not saying a word, not wanting to ruin the moment. Had they just killed Voldemort?
She looked at Ron who looked just as uncertain as she was, as the inched closer. Why hadn't Voldemort moved yet? Was it possible for the most evil wizard to have ever walked the earth to be dead just like that?
"Oohh" A low icy moan suddenly sounded, followed by Voldemort gingerly sitting up as Ron and Hermione's eyes widened as wide as they possible could.
"Hermione…" Ron said as he began to back away
"H-He's not dead."
"I don't know Ron,"
"'Mione if we can't kill him with the killing curse, t-then what do we kill him with?"
"I-I don't know Ron."
Voldemort was on his feet again. More cautious than before, but much more dangerous.
Hermione looked around her. People were in sight, but no one was near. What were they supposed to do? Keep on fighting until they died? They were out of a plan; there was nothing more to fall back on. Hermione Granger was completely out of ideas.
"Just keep fighting?" She asked tentatively
Ron shook the hair out of his face as he raised his wand in the ready position. "I suppose…"
Hermione mimicked him, raising her left arm into the air to balance herself as well. 'This is foolish' she thought to herself 'We're going to die.'
But before she could think of anything else, Voldemort had shot a jet of purple light towards them; so fast neither one had heard what the old Slytherin had murmured. The light was coming directly towards Ron, but before he had time to react, the curse had hit him in his shoulder, where he let out a scream before crumpling to the ground.
Hermione didn't remember screaming, all she remembered was suddenly being by Ron's side as Voldemort walked slowly, ever so slowly towards her, that evil fang toothed grin on his face, his red eyes blazing with delight.
"Ron! Ron! Wake up!" She cried as she shook him. No response. She felt his head with her hand, cold as ice.
At this, she quickly withdrew her hand, her body shaking. He couldn't die on her, not here, not now.
"Ron, please wake up for me! Please!" She cried, not able to help the build up of tears in her eyes.
He couldn't be dead. He just simply couldn't be. Not after everything, not after all of the numerous close calls, all of the narrow escapes, not after all the 'I love you's' and the proposals and the plans for the future. He couldn't leave her here alone, alone of this battlefield with the most evil man in the world.
But he wasn't stirring.
Hermione traced her hand over his red hair, his freckles, his pale skin, all of the features that made up her childhood, all of the features that defined who she was. She knew who she was in the world according to Ron Weasley, but without him, she was simply Hermione.
"Ron! Ron!" She began to cry, "Ron…"
"What's wrong Granger? Is he not waking up?" Voldemort shouted from afar, a laugh in his tone. He was taking his time approaching her.
Ignoring his words despite the stabbing feeling they'd created in her heart, she turned her attention back to the lifeless form of Ron. "Ron," she whispered, lying down next to him, "Please don't leave me. I need you. You promised me, you promised me…" She softly kissed his cheek and wiped at her tears. "I can't live without you, you know that you incredulous git! Come back to me, I don't want to beg." She stared at his unmoving body. "N-No…" She choked before she began to cry.
"Oh poor little girl lost her boyfriend? How sad." Voldemort's voice broke through her tears. She lifted her puffy red eyes to gaze at the man responsible for the death of Harry, Fred, Viktor, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, her parents, Seamus, Lavender, Padma and Parvati, Dennis, Colin, Snape, Madame Pomfrey, Ernie, Draco, Angelina, Filch, Michael Corner, Cho, Penelope Clearwater, Zacharias Smith, Blaise Zambini, and now Ron. She wouldn't let him get away with it. Not without a fight.
"You, You MONSTER!" she screamed, jumping to her feet and tackling Voldemort to the ground.
"DON'T TOUCH ME MUDBLOOD!" Voldemort screamed as Hermione began punching him as hard as she possibly could, having been trained by Fred and George.
"YOU'VE KILLED OFF EVERYONE I'VE LOVED! I DON'T CARE WHAT EVERYONE SAYS, I'M -- KILLING --YOU --MYSLEF!" She sobbed
"GET OFF OF ME!" He cried in pain as Hermione felt his nose crack underneath her fist. She was no longer simply punching him; it was a full body attack now, complete with kicking and scratching.
"GET ME OFF YOURSELF! YOU FUCKING SON OF A BITCH! YOU CAN KILL MY PARENTS, KILL MY FRIENDS, TEACHERS, AND CLASSMATES, YOU CAN EVEN KILL HARRY. BUT I WON'T LET YOU GET AWAY WITH KILLING RON!"
Her tears were mixing with sweat and blood, not knowing or caring what belonged to her and what didn't. She didn't care that this wasn't rational, that this was going to make things worse, that no one in their right mind would voluntarily tackle Lord Voldemort but she was beyond sane. He'd pushed her over the edge and he was going to pay for it.
"I'M GOING TO MAKE YOU FEEL EVERY BIT OF PAIN THAT I'VE FELT! YOU SAY YOU'RE IMMORTAL BUT THAT'S COMPLETE BULLSHIT! YOU ARE HUMAN, YOU ARE THE MOST TWISTED, SICK, MOST EVIL MAN I'VE EVER MET, BUT YOU ARE HUMAN!"
"I'M GOING TO SEE THIS THROUGH TO THE END, I WANT TO WATCH HOW YOU SCREAM IN DEFEAT, HOW YOUR BODY GOES LIMP WITH DEATH. I'M GOING TO WATCH IT SO THAT I CAN BE CERTAIN THAT YOU NEVER EVER COME BACK AGAIN! YOU'VE HURT TOO MANY PEOPLE, ENDED TOO MANY LIVES, I'M GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT THAT ENDS RIGHT NOW! RON WILL BE YOUR LAST VICTIM, AND IF I GIVE YOU ANYTHING, I'LL GIVE YOU MY WORD ON THAT!"
But before Hermione could throw her last and final punch, she felt a pair of arms holding her back. She froze, as did Voldemort, who was a bloody heap now. "You idiot." The person breathed in her ear as they pulled her to her feet.
Ron Weasley gave her a soft smile as she stumbled to her feet, her hand almost certainly broken in more than one place, Voldemort's black and silver blood staining her clothes and hands. Hermione simply stared at him as he came towards her, wrapping his arms around her in a way that made her crumble with relief, tears soaking his shirt as his body heat enveloped her, reminding her once and for all that for this moment at least, she was safe.
"I-thought you were dead" she whispered
"Shh…I'm here." Ron said gently, kissing her on the forehead, rocking her back and forth slowly. "I'd never leave you like that."
Hermione couldn't stop crying; stop the relief from overwhelming her. Here she was thinking she was alone in the world, when once again a miracle happened and somehow fate brought him to her again. The world could take away everything she loved, yet for some reason, the world couldn't seem to deny her Ron, no matter how much others wanted them separated.
Ron leaned close and tilted her chin up, placing his soft lips on hers. The kiss was breathtaking, everything Hermione felt and needed. There was desperation, there was gratefulness, there was passion, and there was love. Ron's calloused hands ran up her lower back, pulling her tightly to him, wanting her as close as possible. Hermione sighed deeply into the kiss and ran her hands through his dusty red hair. She had everything she needed right here.
Ron broke off the kiss suddenly, looking almost panicked, his eyes staring behind her. "Hermione" He said roughly, moving her to the side so that they could now both see Voldemort approaching them, wand in hand. "Hermione" he said again, this time taking both her hands in his and looking deeply into her eyes. "I love you"
Hermione opened her mouth to respond when an earth-shattering scream sounded from behind them. All three turned to look as Alicia Spinnet gave her last breath and crumbled to the ground.
Snapping her head to meet Ron's gaze they shared a long look as screams and commotion suddenly surrounded them. "I love you too," she whispered.
And with that they both took out their wands, as Voldemort now stopped in front of them. "You both have battled impressively well. But now my time of fun and games is over." Voldemort seethed, rage evident in his every movement. "Death is in the air in case you haven't noticed and nothing would give me greater pleasure right now than to see the both of you join your families and friends!"
Neither of them said a word, just simply stared back at Voldemort, much stronger than before, memories of the dead fueling them with passion.
More screams echoed across the forest to where they were, tempting Hermione to look to see who Voldemort's newest victim was. Death Eaters, Giants, Elves, Trolls, Werewolves, and other magical creatures were all around now, rounding up the last Witches and Wizards. Battles were raging, people were screaming, people were dying. The moon was rising and darkness had already settled in. The only thing she could see were the tips of wands, Voldemort's glowing brightly.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" He suddenly screamed as the jet of green light headed towards her.
"CRUCIO!" She cried, sending the curse in Voldemort's direction, as she avoided the killing curse
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Ron shouted moving closer to Voldemort
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Voldemort screamed. Hermione, who had jumped up in the air in order to avoid it, fell with a hard thump, her body hitting a nearby rock.
"Hermione!" Ron cried
Moving slightly, she realized that she was fine. Looking up to tell Ron so, the words got stuck in her throat as only a few mere feet from her, Tonks was screaming as Remus Lupin was being tortured.
She was being held back by a Death Eater, while another was standing over Lupin's twitching body laughing. Tonks' clothes were torn as if scratched by a large cat, her hair, usually so vibrant, was a dirty brown, making her appear much paler than she really was, blood from an open head wound gushing down the sides of her body.
"STOP IT! LET HIM GO!" She screamed, fighting the Death Eater that was holding her back. She was clawing at him, kicking, fighting, and desperately trying to get to Lupin whose clothes were burnt and whose body kept twitching.
"Hahahaha! How bout another round of it eh pretty?"
"NOOO! STOP IT! LEAVE HIM ALONE!" She sobbed, tears streaking down her face.
"What do you think Derrick? You think he's had enough?" The Death Eater holding Tonks back asked
The Death Eater named Derrick laughed and shook his head. "I think it's time for this pretty lady to get a taste of what he's been experiencing don't you think?"
The other laughed heartily, "I think so. Give it to her!"
"AHHHHHHH!" Tonks screamed as she fell to the ground, the torturing curse eating away at her body.
"HERMIONE WATCH OUT!" Ron suddenly yelled
Snapping her head, Hermione realized that the killing curse was headed right towards her. Jumping to her feet, she narrowly missed it.
Brought back to her reality suddenly, Hermione watched as Ron and Voldemort continued to duel. Hermione's blood was boiling, and as she grabbed her wand, she ran towards them, never meaning the killing curse more.
Ron watched as Hermione fell and for a moment he panicked. "Hermione!" He cried
But the sound of Voldemort shouting "AVADA KEDAVRA!" brought his attention back to the Dark Lord and the duel they were currently having.
He leaped to the left to avoid the curse. Breathing heavily now, he looked over his shoulder to double check on Hermione again. She was sitting up and appeared fine but she was focused on something in the distance. Squinting to see what it was she was so intently staring at, Ron missed Voldemort hitting him on top of the head. Luckily though, Voldemort had chosen the wrong way to attack Ron Weasley, one of six brothers. If there was anything he knew how to do, it was fight.
Quickly elbowing Voldemort in the chest he was able to get the snake like man's arms into a gridlock position in no time. Suddenly with no resistance from Voldemort, and Ron without a next move, they stood like that for a moment, neither one with access to their wands.
"AHHHHH!" A scream from the direction Hermione was looking at sounded. Ron shut his eyes and looked away. He knew who it was instantly. Tonks.
Ron could feel Voldemort's chest rise and fall as he let out a slight chuckle. "This may continue you know" He said lazily, "But the longer you wait to give in, the more people will die."
Anger overcoming him Ron slammed Voldemort into a nearby tree.
"Oh boy you really have no idea what you're doing do you? If you really were smart you would all retreat back into hiding. There's so few of you left. Save your own skins, who's dead is dead, no one and nothing is bringing them back."
"You killed Harry" Ron gritted "I'm willing to risk everything to get my revenge."
"Even your family? Your parents are both dead now, two of your brothers also. What about your sister? Are you willing to hand her over to me, to watch her die? And what of your precious mudblood? Is revenge worth all that?"
"Hermione and I have always been behind Harry, all of our--"
Ron snapped his head to look as a badly injured Tonks tried to drag an almost dead Lupin across the forest floor to safety, Death Eaters at their heels.
"Nymphadora, please just leave me!" Lupin begged, too weak to even resist Tonk's hold on him.
"Remus stop, you know I can't!" She cried, using every ounce of strength she had to continue dragging him.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" A familiar voice suddenly screamed, as Hermione approached them, a jet of green light shooting out of her wand at Voldemort.
Ron let go as the curse hit Voldemort in the back, knocking him over, but not killing him.
Hermione was crying, but there was a red fire in her eyes he had never seen before. "They're going to kill them" She said simply, the dark circles under her eyes making her look dangerous.
Ron didn't say a word, only looked back out as the Death Eaters circled around Tonks and Lupin, two of the best fighters in the history of Aurors, now beaten and upon death.
"I know it. It's over."
"Maybe we can still…"
"Hush. Stop crying" Lupin said gently "We are from the Order. We don't die crying. We die heroes deaths."
Ron looked around them. Hermione was biting her lip, her eyes burning with hatred, firey tears slipping from her eyes. Voldemort lay still on the ground, in the process of getting back up. The forest was on fire now, only a few feet away from them now. The sky was black and smoky. But behind him, Ron heard more screams and as he spun around he saw Ginny in the distance, Ginny being protected by none other than Neville Longbottom.
"BOYS LET'S GET THEM ONCE AND FOR ALL!"
"GINNY STAY BEHIND ME!"
"NEVILLE LET'S RUN FOR IT!"
"WHERE? WHERE DO WE GO? WE'RE TRAPPED!"
Ron was running before he even knew it, his legs magically carrying him the short distance to where they were, avoiding flames as we went. Wand out, he was almost there when--
--three Death Eaters simultaneously shouted the killing curse, where the once timid boy, too afraid to go to Potions class, crumbled over backwards, trapping Ginny's lifeless body underneath him.
"NOOO!" Ron screamed, as he looked down at the bodies of his little sister and Neville. The Death Eaters looked confused, and without a word, Ron killed them all.
Hermione watched as Ron ran off and was suddenly caught up in the impression that this was the end of the world.
Tonks was holding Lupin's hand now, chins up, pride saved.
So, with nothing more to save, Hermione closed her eyes as she let the screams of Tonks and Lupin wash over her.
Roughly shoving their bodies out of the way, Ron moved Neville's body over to expose that of his little sister.
Ginny wasn't moving. And as Ron lifted her head to cradle it in his arms, blood gushed from it, soaking not only the wet grass but also Ron's hands.
Eyes darting around, body and mind numb, Ron knew only one thing. Ginny was dead. Ginny, his baby sister, his best friend was gone. And there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Body shaking, tears escaping, Ron slowly got up. He didn't want to see this Ginny anymore. So with a final kiss, Ron began to run. He had a duty to do. He was going to end this war, this war that could have been finished a long time ago. Ginny and Neville couldn't be saved. And to Ron, there wasn't a whole lot more he could lose.
Voldemort was on his feet again. It had taken a while but he was better for it as was apparent in the maniac way he was approaching Hermione. Ron was almost there and Hermione, all effort and energy gone, still hearing the screams of Tonks and Lupin in her ears, prayed that he got here soon. Because if she wasn't careful she'd give in right now.
The fire was out of control now and Voldemort was ready for more; that much was obvious. Seeing nothing but Ginny's broken body, Ron came to a stop next to Hermione wand at the ready.
"Neville" was all he said
Hermione turned to look at him with a beaten look, her wand up and ready.
"Ginny too" He mumbled before turning to look at Voldemort.
"Tonks and Lupin" Hermione breathed
Ron nodded, the anger building up. "Let's rip him to shreds."
"It's not going to work." Hermione said softly
"What do you mean?" Ron asked
"Not if we kill out of anger. That's what they do." She said motioning over to where Dumbledore, Pansy and Cormac McLaggen were dueling a group of Death Eaters.
"Then what the hell am I supposed to kill out of?"
"I don't know." Hermione said, "All I know is that Harry wouldn't have wanted us to turn into one of them."
A big gust of wind picked up the fire, now surrounding them, Voldemort's face flickering in the flames. He laughed evilly.
"EVIL HAS CONQUERED THE WORLD, IT HAS BEAT THE ODDS, AND IT HAS WON! I HAVE DONE THE UNTHINKABLE! THERE IS NOTHING MORE YOU CAN DO TO STOP ME!
Ron wasn't listening to Voldemort anymore. All he was thinking about was the way his Dad's face lit up whenever he found a Muggle devise, the way his Mum's eyes danced when she laughed, Fred and George's mischievous all-knowing grins, Charlie's calloused hands, the way Bill glowed when he married Fleur, Ginny's laugh as he or Harry would tickle her, the goofy grin Harry got on his face after every Quidditch match and after every mention of Ginny.
"AVADA KEDAVRA DOESN'T WORK! I AM IMMORTAL! I HAVE WON! YOU SILLY CHILDREN WHO HAVE OH SO VERY FOOLSIHLY TESTED ME ALL THESE YEARS WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS THE ENEMY!"
Hermione saw them all. The ghosts of the dead. There were so many now. Voldemort was talking but Hermione only saw them, their smiles, their encouraging glances, their winks. Only heard them, their laughs, their comforting words.
In the distance she saw Amos Diggory and Ludo Bagman fall to the ground. Death Eaters raised a terrified Justin Finch-Fletchy up on the ground before exploding him. George and Luna fell side by side as George tried to save Luna from being raped. And Dumbledore, one of the most powerful wizards of all time, fell gracefully as he protected a group of young Hogwarts students, Fawkes rising into the air, filling it with a sad, lonely song.
"Go on" The ghost of Lupin said softly
"Now's the time" Dumbledore winked
"Give 'em hell for us!" Fred and George grinned
"We love you" Mr. And Mrs. Weasley said
"Be brave" Neville said gently, with a shy smile
"Have courage" Viktor said overdramatically
"Remember where you came from" The Grangers whispered
"Do this for us" Seamus and Lavender said in unison
"You're doing this for everyone" Ginny said
"Go on, NOW!" Harry said
Voldemort raised his wand.
Ron looked at Hermione. 'One,' he thought 'Two, THREE!"
And without another word, Ron and Hermione lifted their wands and nothing more was heard except three desperate curses, one after the other, "AVADA KEDAVRA! AVADA KEDAVRA! AVADA KEDAVRA!"
There was nothing but a single flash of light. And then there was nothing.
(A/N???? Luckily for you all an epilogue is coming!)