Standard disclaimers apply!
I do not own Harry Potter. I have nothing to do with Scholastic, Warner Bros or Bloomsbury. I'm not JKR and I am certainly not making any profit out of this.
"No! No! It isn't possible. There's been some sort of mistake – that's it, a terrible mistake! It wasn't them! It was all a mistake ... it wasn't them ... I'm not too late ... it was someone else!"
Ron just held her.
"It's not true," Hermione whispered, clinging to him desperately. "Tell me it's not true," she begged.
"I can't," and still he held her, his heart breaking for her.
George was the only one home when Ron had finally bought Hermione back, white faced with shock. Together they'd taken her into the front room, settled her on the settee, tucked a blanket around her. Ron stroked her hair and held her hand while George ran for a sleeping draught.
She took it without argument, holding Ron's hand tightly and shooting George a wan smile, before falling into a dreamless sleep.
George led Ron into the kitchen, made tea while Ron collapsed into the nearest chair.
"What happened? You've been gone for days."
Ron's lips pressed together, his face still while. He sipped the tea carefully, grateful for its heat and sweetness.
"We went to Mr and Mrs Grangers London apartment, to tidy up a bit, you know? Before we went to find them. It was ... it was a complete wreck."
"Death Eaters?" George's face darkened.
"Death Eaters." Ron confirmed. "There was ... everything was just smashed to bits, writing all over the walls. Threats. Well, you can imagine."
"We went straight to Sydney, of course, started searching ... but ..." Ron's voice faded away and he stared out the window.
"But?" George prompted gently, when it seemed as if Ron had nothing more to say.
"Mr and Mrs Granger were killed in a car accident about three months ago. It was ... well, they wouldn't have felt a thing, anyway. The Australian Ministry, they're sure it was a genuine accident."
"Merlin." George reached across the table and gripped Ron's arm.
"I know. She's ... she's not ... she blames herself." Ron's face crumpled a bit.
"Why in Merlins name would she do that?" George demanded quietly as he rounded the table to sit directly by his brother.
"You know Hermione," Ron shrugged helplessly, "she thinks if she could have just tried that little bit harder to hide them."
"That's ridiculous," George whispered, glancing toward the front room. "She did everything she possibly could to protect them. When ... do you know when their place in London was ...?"
"It wasn't recent, if that's what you mean," said Ron, "I think it wasn't long after we started hunting the horcruxes."
"Ron, if this was a genuine accident," George said urgently, "we have to get it through to her that it wasn't her fault – if the Death Eaters had found them, we'd know, the Ministry would know ... and it wouldn't have been as simple as a car accident. You know that."
"I know that."
"We have to make her believe it, she has to understand that ... that they would have -" George took a deep breath, "they would have suffered, had they been here."
"George," Ron whispered, desperately clutching at his brothers sleeve, "you have to help me with this. I know it's too much to ask of you right now, but I don't know what to do."
George thew his arm around Ron's shoulders and held him firmly. "We'll get her through this."
"What's happened?" Molly walked into the kitchen to find her two youngest son's silent and grim, drinking tea as if their very lives depended on it. Arthur followed close behind, stopping short at the sight before him.
"Hermione's parents are dead," George finally told them, when it became clear that Ron was unable to do so.
"The poor child," Molly's eyes filled with tears, "where is she?"
"Sleeping," Ron found his voice at last. "George gave her a draught. She'll be alright for a few hours at least."
"Good boy," Arthur said, gripping Molly's shoulder. "Will this ever end?"
Arthur sat beside the girl who meant so much to his youngest son. The girl he considered another daughter. Her face was streaked with tears and he felt so, so much for her.
"I know its cold comfort for you now," he said as Molly held her gently, "but you will always have a place here with us."