A/N: Sorry for... well, let's save this for the end shall we. Here you go:
"Tell me again why we're headed this way. Following that low-down, no good…"
"Tell us again why you followed us?" Blaise interrupted Ginny's rant, "I told you to stay behind and look after your brother. With as many of them as there are there's bound to be one wounded at Hogwarts somewhere."
"And I told you that you are NOT my father and have no authority over me! I don't even know why you've been following me around like a lost puppy for the past two weeks!! I can very well…"
"Lost puppy my arse!!! I have not been following you around, you daft ginger haired Weasely!! And it seemed last week you quite enjoyed my company!!"
"As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted!! I can very well go where I please and do as I please with or without your stupid blessing, Zabini!!"
"Well, why don't you go back to Hogwarts and do whatever the hell you've been doing for the past two weeks!! Oh wait, you've been hanging all over me!! My apologies," he sneered, turning another corner in the dark, musty cavern they'd been traveling in for the past seven hours.
"Why you little…" Ginny growled taking a step forward only to be held back by the third member of their party.
"Would you two kindly shut it!!?" Caleb shouted, stunning both of them as he hadn't said a word in three hours. "You can save your bloody lovers spat for when we get back to civilization."
Ginny huffed and Blaise pretended to ignore Caleb's outburst and continued leading the way. They were going into forbidden territory to retrace Draco's steps. The ministry had banned all entry to Benedict's Hovel, the place of Voldemort's death and the site of the Final Battle. But Blaise knew a way in that the Ministry, in its scramble to regain its bearings and get the wizarding world under control, had yet to guard. But Benedict's Hovel was not a pleasant place to wander, especially with the growing chance that the animals previously evicted by the Dark Lord would return to their homes with an extremely hostile disposition.
"We'll stop here for now," Blaise intoned as the reached a spot where the cave widened. Ginny's skin went pale when she caught sight of where Zabini intended to make camp.
"Not here," she voiced, "This is it. We can't stay here." Caleb glanced back at Blaise, who had set down his pack and was currently resting on a large boulder.
"It's done with, Ginny. He is really and truly gone. This is the last familiar place before we go on in search of my idiot best friend and your Precious Potter," his voice was calm, even soothing, but he didn't once look up at either of them.
Ginny set her pack down, seemingly giving in to the inevitable, and slumped against the wall. "He's not my Precious Potter. He does not belong to me. And if there is anything between us, it is but a strained friendship," she corrected, her voice quiet and sad.
Caleb opened his mouth to speak but was silenced by a scathing look from Blaise. He closed his mouth immediately. Even out of school the respect instilled from belonging to the house of Slytherin remained.
"Caleb, Ginny you two sleep first. Even with him dead, I don't trust these caves," Blaise spoke. Caleb nodded, knowing that the only person who would sleep the whole night, if it was currently night outside, would be the girl. It surprised him that Blaise had taken to calling her by her first name. Perhaps it was to ease the fear that still remained visible on her face and in her movements. Or maybe it was just another difference between Blaise and Draco. Caleb smirked as he thought about the assumptions people made about his elder brother based on his preference to call most people by their surname only. Many thought he was just being conceited or rude, and so had Caleb and Connor for a time. But as they spent time with Draco, and studying as much of his past as they could get their hands on, they learned that it was not his way of being rude and belittling others, but his way of keeping others at a distance so as to protect anyone from being hurt. Whether he was protecting himself or the other party they'd yet to figure out.
"Sleep Caleb," Blaise reminded him, bringing him out of his reverie, "You've only got a few hours." Caleb nodded, seeing Ginny already curled up but obviously awake. Caleb propped himself up against the cave wall and drifted off into a dreamless sleep in a matter of minutes, having no trouble with slumber after over thirty hours awake.
"Blaise," Ginny whispered, after listening to Caleb's even breathing for ten minutes.
"Why have you been follo-… spending time with me?" she corrected herself at the last moment to avoid another confrontation. Blaise was silent for a moment.
"Much as I hate to admit it," he began slowly, "it started because of your stupid prat of a brother."
"Ron?" she questioned, wondering how he could figure into all of this.
Blaise nodded before realizing, with their wands all extinguished, she couldn't see this motion. "I was wounded after the last battle and by the time I got here Draco had already followed after Harry. You were wounded also, not horribly, but, well, you know, and Ron was torn between you and following after his best mate. He just sort of glanced at me and…" he trailed off, not ready to go into the emotion that had passed through the air in those few moments.
"And you took me back to Hogwarts. That is what he would have wanted," the second part was said more to herself than to him.
"It was a brother thing," Blaise explained, pleased that she didn't push him to continue recounting the events of that evening.
"A brother thing?" "I have a sister also," Blaise informed, "And if I were in that position I would want someone to bring her to safety, too. Though Belinda's not a thing like you and I'd hope she wouldn't risk her life chasing after me like Ron and I both knew you would if you'd come to and seen him running off like he did."
"She would," Ginny responded, "if she cared a thing about you, she would. Because sisters have a way of knowing how stupid, pig-headed, and careless brothers can be. But that doesn't explain why you stayed."
"I stayed because," Blaise paused, not really sure of the reason himself, "… because we both needed it. Needed someone." A small smile graced Ginny lips and she was about to respond when he spoke again. "That's enough sharing for one night, Ginny. I know you girls do this stuff all the time but I'm a guy, and a Slytherin to boot. Too much of this could kill me, or worse… turn me soft. Get some sleep."
Her smile only widened but she remained quiet, willing herself to sleep.
Blaise was the last to wake, but was ready to move on in a matter of minutes.
"Ron went this way," he pointed directly across the opening, toward a narrower section of the cavern toward which they were progressing.
"He said that he went left when it split in two and that wasn't the correct direction," Ginny informed, recalling what Ron had recounted once he'd been found and brought to St. Mungo's.
"So onward until we can go right," Caleb declared as they pushed forward, watching their feet and heads and maneuvering their bodies at uncomfortable angles in order to cope with the sharp edges on the cavern walls.
They moved on in silence, Blaise in the lead and Caleb taking up the rear, with their wands lit and at the ready. Ginny had offered to take the rear and offer Caleb the protection of the middle, him being the youngest of the bunch. Caleb had frowned at the offer and declined. Blaise had laughed and when goaded and poked by the feisty red-head had finally confessed that neither he nor Caleb would have let her take one of the riskier positions in their group no matter how much older she was and that Caleb was most likely a tad bit offended that she had implied that he couldn't defend the rear as well as she could. To this Ginny scowled and accused both men of being sexist and chauvinistic.
"Look, just give it up," Blaise pleaded with her as he narrowly missed tripping over a large protrusion to his left, "It wasn't an insult and as entertaining as your rant was for the first hour and a half it has gotten really old really fast." They had already veered right and were waiting for any sign of their lost school mates.
Ginny's scowl deepened and she shoved Blaise forward. Blaise put his hands in front of him to brace for the impact but when it never came and he kept falling he reached upward and caught onto the closest thing to him ask quick as he could. Ginny wasn't braced for the added strain of Blaise's weight and she too fell forward, as did Caleb who grabbed onto her other arm in an attempt to stop her descent. Their screams echoed off the stone walls long after their brief fall had ended.
Ginny glanced up at the ledge maybe seven feet above them, "And you grabbed onto me why?" she questioned Blaise as they all stood and checked themselves for injury.
"I'm sorry I couldn't see the bottom in the dark," he sneered, "But at least now you don't have to climb down."
"Maybe I would've preferred to climb down!"
"Well then, why don't I give you a boost up and you can do the whole bloody thing over again your way!!?"
"Why don't you?!! Sounds like a fantastic idea to me!! Let's go backwards instead of forwards!! Great thinking Blaise!!!" she shouted and before Blaise could open his mouth to retort and loud shriek filled the ditch. They all quieted.
"I was going to ask if you all heard that if you could bloody well stop arguing for a moment," Caleb whispered fiercely. They had all heard it that time and there was no mistaking the pain and anguish that rang so clearly around them.
"That way," Blaise breathed as he pointed to an archway leading into a tunnel, the only way out of the ditch besides the way they'd came. Ginny nodded and they fell back into line, following Blaise silently through the passage way.
The next day, during visiting hours, Frank and Carol brought Connor and Brielle to the hospital, leaving Hailey with the neighbors for the day. They had offered to keep Brielle too but Hermione adamantly refused to let her stay alone with anyone other than herself or Connor. After sitting silently in her room for ten minutes her parent's left, excusing themselves to the cafeteria.
"Where's Caleb?" Hermione asked as the door shut behind her father.
"Gone," Connor's voice was quiet, "chasing Draco."
"But… you…" Hermione struggled to find the words, "Are you oka…"
"I'm fine," his voice was clipped but she knew he wasn't angry with her.
"You two… have you… have you ever been apart?" she avoided the subject of Draco altogether, preferring to get to the bottom of Connor's sudden melancholy.
"He's in Slytherin, I'm in Ravenclaw of course we've been apart," he still wouldn't meet her eyes.
"No, I mean… apart like… like now," she didn't want to upset him further but in the silence the sound of his heavy breathing was too much to ignore. She knew he wanted, needed, to cry or something, but also knew that since he was related to Draco meant he wouldn't or couldn't, whichever.
"Yes…" he spoke slowly, "Once…our mother forced us apart." That was all the explanation she was going to get, but the memory was so vivid in his mind.
Angelica had been to see a muggle doctor of sorts, behind her husband's back of course, because she was worried about her twins. They hardly ever socialized with the other children their age and tended to stay and play together. It worried her, thinking that they might be slow developing. The doctor had told her to try to get them interested in different things so they could develop separate personalities. Also to dress them differently. Angelica had tried, tried and failed. She dressed them differently, but even at six they knew exactly what they wanted and come lunch time they were in identical outfits once more. She pushed Connor to spend time in the library and bought Caleb a broom and encouraged interest in quidditch, but Caleb would fly to the library window and sneak in and they'd spend the whole day reading, or he'd pick up Connor and they'd both fly circles around the mansion together or taking turns.
Angelica was desperate; they'd even learned to remove the glamour charms she'd placed upon them anchored with the necklaces she'd given them at birth. They'd remove the chains when they were alone and didn't know she was watching. They were intrigued by their platinum hair and smoky eyes that had to be kept hidden away from the world. It was one day that Horace almost caught them that she panicked. Together they were too much of a threat to their current comfortable lifestyle, not to mention they still were extremely reluctant to befriend other children their age. Horace left for a meeting and Angelica snapped. She rushed into the twins' room and jerked Connor off the floor where they were laying playing wizarding chess. Caleb sat up shocked by the harsh treatment of his twin. Both stared wide eyed at their mother.
"Too long, you two only spend time together!! It shouldn't be this way!!" She shouted, not really trying to explain, but instead conveying her mixed up thoughts. She let out a scream and both boys cowered. She pulled Connor behind her as she turned swiftly to leave the room, not even bothering to make sure Caleb would follow. Connor's feet were dragging and she jerked his arm again to get him to move with her. He stumbled and she glanced back to see Caleb practically running to keep up.
"You two need to learn to be apart!! You won't always have each other!!!" she shouted. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew she was hurting them, her fingers bruising Connor's arm. A crash sounded behind her and she glanced back again, not stopping her stride as she began to ascend a set of stairs. Caleb had tripped and fallen into a table along the hallway, his lip was bleeding as was his palm and Angelica noticed the broken glass vase briefly. But Caleb hadn't stopped following her. Connor's quiet sobs filled the momentary silence.
"You need to speak to others!! Befriend others!! You are just brothers!!! Blood means nothing if you have no connections!!" she yelled, momentarily remembering her own childhood and the cruelty between herself and her three sisters. She continued the struggle up the stairs, having great difficulty as Connor, being pulled up the stairs backwards, would not fit next to her on the narrow staircase. She paused and hoisted him up under her arm, his flailing and reaching for his twin preventing her from carrying him at her shoulder as she did when he was younger. She turned to glance at Caleb, a good ten stairs down, and accidentally hit Connor's head against the railing. At this Caleb paused, his own hand coming to rest against his head in the same place Connor had just hit, he gripped the railing for a moment before continuing forward, stumbling after his raving mother.
Angelica reached the top and pushed the door open before thrusting Connor inside. The boy stumbled and fell forward on his hands before turning to face her. She stood in the doorway, breathing heavily from the strain of carrying Connor up the stairs. She was positive there was fear in his eyes and if she'd been in her right mind she would've stopped, apologized and kissed the hurt away. As it was, Connor did the exact opposite of what she expected. He scrambled forward reaching out and shouting for Caleb and the boy came up behind their mother, panting from the exertion. Angelica's scowl grew and she held Caleb back as she pushed Connor back again. "You two will learn to be apart!!" she shouted as she slammed the door and locked it magically.
She looked down at Caleb as she began to pull him back down the stairs. Dragging him by his arm in the same way she'd brought Connor from their room. Pounding could be heard behind them as Connor attacked the door. She noticed the tears streaking Caleb's face matched his brothers. And she screamed again. Did they do everything the same?! What would it take to break these habits!?! His charmed brown hair was matted to his face with sweat in the front and sticking up at odd angles in the back. She pulled him down past the kitchens where the house elves were cowering, never having seen their Mistress in such a fit of rage and insanity.
She didn't stop until she'd reached the basement. Horace had wanted a dungeon, but she'd insisted that that would've been far to dark. She walked down the old staircase calmly, with Caleb fighting her the whole way down. She reached the bottom and released his arm, giving him a look that conveyed clearly that he wasn't to follow her. She left quietly and closed the door behind her, locking it and slumping against it. It was now that she realized neither twin had spoken to her throughout the whole ordeal. Connor had yelled for his brother and Caleb hadn't said a word. She breathed in heavily, righted herself and began to walk away from the door when a horribly angry scream filled the air. She paused. It seemed to come from everywhere; she couldn't tell if it was from Caleb, down in the basement or from Connor, so far away in the attic or maybe it was both. But, whoever it was, it broke her, she fell to her knees and covered her ears, unable to stand the sound any longer.
Hermione could see that this was all Connor was going to tell her about whatever had happened before, but she could also see the unnatural shine in his averted eyes. Everyone needed a good cry every once in a while, and as she thought about it a stray tear slid down her face.
"You aren't alone now Connor," she assured him, "But I feel it as well," she said sadly, thinking about all of her friends, Caleb, and Draco back in the wizarding world without her. The hospital room got quiet, even Brielle didn't make a noise, as tears silently fell down two sad faces.
A/N: Okay, so this chapter took forever and a day (literally) because... well I can sit here and tell my life story or I can just cut to the chase. I had this chapter and chapter 21 on a laptop that i no longer use and so... i kinda forgot about them. I am so sorry and the only reason this is here is because you, my doting and undeserved reviewers kept pushing me to do this :). I don't really read Draco/Hermione anymore and I'm not as interested in this fic as I was when I started... but I hate it when authors leave things unfinished and I'm doing my best not to do that to you guys. Eventually I will edit the previous chapters, as I would like to believe my writing has improved, but for now I will post what I have and try to tie this up with a nice pretty bow :)
A Special Thanks goes out to: kingbritney, Writer In The Valley, XDraco and HermioneX, Dianafefe1, Diamonds55, Brielle(Dramione's Daughter), CherryMartini, Superstar2, Dahlia Faith Black, MrsJulyhaMalfoy, mandsiepop, Cal8907, Carlisle-the doctor, Lady Sapphirea, Regretting Crimson, Readerforlife, SugarShimmerBomb, kazfeist, mallymuggle, she is brighter, Wopsidaisy, BeyondRubies, Prettypirateygirl22, mia818, MaYtImE, TvAddict1981, xcheerios, Mikkelsen, and Lightenmd! The continued reviews even as I was absent made me realise that this story should have an ending :) Please continue to tell me what you think :)
Again, I'm sorry for the unbearable delay