"Shit I wish that we can hold hands
Listenin' instead of dissin', lessons from a grown man (I wish)
And I wish the families that lack but got love
Get some stacks, brand new shack, and a 'Llac that's on dubs
And I wish we could keep achieving wonders
See the vision of the world through the eyes of Stevie Wonder (I wish)
You feel me and I hope all the kids eat
And don't nobody in my family see six feet ya dig?"
Hermione sat at the table, her head resting in her palms as her finger traced the chips in the old wood. There was constant moving, talking, questions, planning; it was suffocating really but what other option did she have now? She made her choice. She knew it as soon as she felt the pull around her navel and his eyes, although now red instead of their hypnotizing hazel, disappearing into a swirl of colors. She could have stayed; didn't half of them expect her to stay anyway? But she didn't stay; she left with them and the prisoners back to Headquarters. They had only just landed roughly on the dying green grass of The Burrow when the fighters began appearing, some injured, some carrying comrades, others not coming back at all- but all of them grinning.
The prisoners were taken immediately into the bottom floor of the Burrow which had been transfigured into a miniature version of the Hospital Wing of Hogwarts. Hermione was surprised to found Angelina Johnson standing by ready to help those who were injured during the fight. A fight that the Angelina Johnson Hermione knew would have never missed. Her hatred for the deatheaters ran as deep as it had once run for Hermione. Her family had been massacred right before her very eyes; her whole lifestyle was warped with revenge. Before she could question why she had not been on the front lines, her favorite position, Hermione had been shuffled into a bed. She fought them the whole way trying to explain she was possibly the least hurt person in the room and all she needed was rest but they insisted. After allowing a very conflicted looking Angelina Johnson look her over, the whole time being bombarded with questions by Lupin, she was allowed to make an escape. The first place she ventured to had been the furthest corner of the wards and took time to soak in the sinking sensation that had been her choice.
It had been almost a week since Hermione fell to her knees hidden by the trees and cried for leaving Tom. Things had not been perfect, they had not been how she wanted, but she loved him dearly. It was a love that nothing Fred would ever do be able to compete with. But she had seen the betrayal etched on Tom's face with the anger. She had made her choice. She saw the smiles on Ginny, Neville, George, Seamus, and Fred's face as she rehashed the details of their escape to Lupin. She had made her choice. She chose them without even wanting to. The Snape like voice in her head had been right. She made her choice because it was what was expected of her.
"Hermione?" The brunette lifted her head slightly and her eyes widened as they landed on Fred. She quickly pushed herself up in her chair oblivious to the nosey glances they were getting from everyone.
"Fred." Her voice sounded dead, even to her. She couldn't remember a time feeling as bad- as low- as she did now. Her heart physically hurt, the ache lodged deep in her threat, the misery blanketing her with the urge to just sleep her life away.
"Can we talk?" He asked as his feet shuffled with the nervous habit that seemed to be ingrained in all the Weasley's.
Hermione didn't answer right away. The reply 'not really' had been on the tip of her tongue before she realized the heaviness of those words. How could she not want to talk to him? How could someone not talk to someone she loves? Unless she didn't love him. If she didn't love him though why did she fight Tom so long on being together? It was for the chase. She wanted him to fight for her. She wanted him to just admit the words and feelings she had been longing to hear and feel. She couldn't muster up enough energy to give her husband a decent smile so she just nodded.
"Maybe we should go somewhere more privet?" Fred asked jerking his head over his shoulder.
Hermione followed the motion and felt her face flush. All the hustle and bustle activity had stopped and every eye had been trained on them. Molly looked nervous and hopefully, George looked pleased, Ron looked just as angry as he had been since her return, Ginny…well she looked apprehensive, and the others all held curiosity. Hermione saw Angelina's eyes dart back and forth between her and Fred with a silent pleading and she couldn't help wonder why Angelina would be hoping they patch things up. Didn't she and Fred use to date before they were together?
"Maybe that would be the best idea." Hermione pushed herself away from the table and dragged her body out of the kitchen door. No spot in the house was privet, the more open the area the more privacy they would be granted. She didn't doubt that right now every able body was trying to smother themselves against a window to try and catch a glimpse of what was happening but Hermione, who had needed privacy more often than ever before this last week knew how to angle them behind a thin dying cluster of trees, their branches already naked prepped for the winter. The wind bit roughly at their uncovered skin. She stopped and allowed her body to sag to the ground. She wrapped her arms around her legs bringing them closer to her chest. Fred sat down next to her.
"So…" He began but trailed off.
Hermione waited patiently for something to come out of his mouth but all she heard was the wind and the occasional shout from inside the house. She placed her elbows on her knees and began to rub her temple. Why would he request to talk to her and sit there as if he is a mute? Hermione couldn't help but get annoyed with the man that once was her world.
"What did you want Fred?" Hermione snapped out. She knew she shouldn't be so curt with her husband but she was angry. She was angry that she was here. She was angry that Tom didn't do more. She was angry at herself for expecting Tom to do more. She was angry at Fred for bringing her outside and not saying anything, pulling her from the self-wallowing she had been drowning in.
"Hermione…" Fred sighed and before Hermione could comprehend his tone she was on her back, Fred hovering over her, his hand caressing her cheeks. "I'm sorry."
Sorry. He is sorry. What is he sorry for though? Was it for casting her off to the side and not trying to understand? Was he sorry for not standing by her? Well he damn well better be sorry but did she accept the apology? As his lips collided with hers she realized she had to accept it, didn't she? The kiss was sweet and full of love…one sided love. Could he feel her hesitation? Could he feel that even as her lips moved against his the kiss was not sincere, that she felt no pooling heat in her stomach and her heart didn't skip a beat? As his hand traveled from her cheek to her waist and back up her stomach under her shirt she realized that no, he didn't realize how deeply she had changed. She pushed him away not able to stand the feel of his hand on her own stomach, the images of Tom constantly flashing through her head.
"Fred…" Hermione gasped, "A kiss and a sorry don't make it all better."
"Then we take it slow…we start out slow. I love you Hermione, I don't want to lose you." Fred said with his eyes shining with their sincerity.
"Slow sounds good." She managed to get out through her tightened throat.
Slow was too fast for Hermione but she had made her choice didn't she? She made the choice to leave Tom and return back to the Order. Coming back to the Order had meant coming back to Fred, fixing the marriage that by all legal accounts she still had. She felt him leave a happy kiss on her lips before rolling off of her and pulling her to rest against his chest. His free hand that was not wrapped around her pulled the silver chain that had yet to leave her neck out from underneath her shirt, her wedding rings hanging from the end. Her eyes widened at the sight of them. She had forgotten that she continued to wear them religiously around her neck. Her hands reached up and fumbled with the metal.
"Will you wear them again?" Fred asked already maneuvering his body so he could unclasp the latch on the necklace. Hermione found herself sitting up and away from the red head. Fred had a hopeful smile on his face as he slid the rings off of the silver chain and was completely oblivious to Hermione's horrified expression. She quickly schooled her face and held out her hand shakily. Her eyes watched as he slid on her wedding band first and then her engagement ring. The cool metal felt odd against her skin and it gave her the chills to wear something that helped further the lie she was forcing herself to live. Once Fred dropped her hand he smiled, "Things will get better I promise."
I doubt that. Hermione thought but instead she smiled with a depressed sadness and nodded her head before allowing him to wrap her in his arms again.
Tom clenched and unclenched his fist around his wand several times before taking a calming breath. Oh how he wanted to just hex the blonde in front of him into oblivion but he knew he would instantly regret it. Oh it irked the dark wizard that he found himself not wishing to harm Abraxus but the damn guy knew all the right and wrong things to say. Plus Tom knew deep down that if he murdered the man as soon as Hermione returned to him she would give him a strong tongue lashing and probably even run off on his like she had when she learned he had slept with that other girl. Abraxus smirked at him at Tom narrowed his eyes in a glare before raising his wand and sending the man flying backwards into the wall. It took the Malfoy a few minutes to open his eyes and stand but eventually he did.
"Did that make you feel any better?" Abraxus asked as he rubbed his sore neck.
"You are asking for much worse Malfoy." To his irritation the man in front of him just waved off the comment. He too knew that he was safe from the man's worst wrath and was using it to his advantage all too often. "Why are you here?"
"I am here because of this." Abraxus reached into the pocket of his robes and removed a sack. Tom's eyes widened as he reached forward and yanked the cloth away from his minion. Slowly he untied the strings. Inside were four bicorn horns. A victorious smirk played on Tom's lips as he looked towards Abraxus, "You did well Malfoy."
Hermione rubbed her hands over her face and blinked her eyes several times in hope to push away the drowsiness that was threatening to overcome her. It was nearly four in the morning and it had been two weeks since Fred had slipped her rings back onto her fingers. Hermione's eyes darted to the sparkling jewelry only to quickly look away. The first few days she spent trying to hide from her husband but he was constantly there whenever she turned around. It was when she actually had to fight herself from cursing him into oblivion that she met with the researchers and agreed to help find a cure to reviving Harry. It was there that she was offered peace from her overly excited husband.
Since the research room- the attic, was the only place she could find privacy Hermione spent nearly twenty four hours in the stuffy area. She would leave the papers and books behind for three hours only to crawl into bed with Fred and sleep on the edge in hopes to keep distance between them. It rarely worked for when she would wake up his arm would be slung over her or his head resting on her. It irked her to no extent when she would wake up to find these position but she had to consistently remind herself that she had picked this life.
"Hermione?" The brunette spun in her chair with her wand raised only to see the apprehensive face of Ginny Weasley staring back at her. Hermione closed her eyes slowly and lowered her wand wishing that she hadn't been the cause of the look of fear on her friends face. Though she had willingly returned to them and accepted Fred back she was still giving looks of fear and apprehension. They didn't trust her and Hermione knew that they shouldn't.
Remus was the worst. His eyes seemed to follow her wherever she went and she was fighting with herself on a regular basis to keep her mouth shut and her wand away. His eyes were calculating and judging, she could only imagine the thoughts that ran through his mind whenever he thought of her. She wondered if his heightened sense could tell that she was not the same person anymore and that every day she woke up wondering if she could just leave and return back to Tom. She couldn't though.
Of course walking out of the Burrow would be a piece of cake but walking back onto the Malfoy property would not be. Tom was furious with her, she was no fool to believe otherwise and the look in his eyes when she had left told her all she needed to know. If she returned he would most likely kill her, whether he wanted her or not. She had been an idiot to hold onto the hope that Tom would burst forth in pose with his love for her. He was the darkest wizard of all time, he did not go spouting off his love for a muggleborn witch, the very thing he wanted to eradicate.
"Ginny." Hermione said as she placed her wand on the wooden worktable she was occupying. She attempted to give her friend a reassuring smile but Hermione knew it came out more as a grimace. She ran her hand through her hair, "What are you doing up here?"
"It's nearly four in the morning; shouldn't you go to bed soon?" Ginny asked moving to a chair that was at the work bench opposite of Hermione.
"I am close to figuring out this damn formula for Harry; I can't sleep."
Hermione found that throwing herself into curing Harry not only gave her an excuse to not be around her husband and the Order but it also helped stop the small amount of guilt that still ate at her for betraying the black haired boy. She remembered clearly when he and Ron had come to her rescue from the troll in their first year. It had been the start of their friendship and it had been the moment when Hermione promised to always be there for the friends she had never had growing up as a small child. She had broken that promise though- in the worst imaginable way; by falling in love with the man who took her bests friends family and childhood.
Tom had committed such horrendous deeds and yet Hermione couldn't find it in her to hate him like she once had. Oh she wished she could, it would make everything so much easier but those days were long gone. The muggleborn witch couldn't understand why it was Tom. Out of everyone that she could possibly find a soul mate in it had to be with the man that no longer had a soul! She had assumed that she and Fred were meant to be but her time with Tom proved that the love she had for Fred was nothing compared to the sparks between her and the Dark Lord. There was no way she could love another man like she did Tom and she knew that being away from him sentenced her to a life of regret, anger, and unhappiness. But she had forced that judgment upon herself by leaving with the Order three weeks prior.
"Do you think it is going to work?" Ginny's voice snapped her out of her thoughts and Hermione looked down to the paper she had been scribbling furiously on.
Her work in the attic was one huge contradiction. She was spending countless hours trying to find a way to bring Harry Potter back to life. Harry Potter, the only person capable of killing the man she was hopelessly in love with. And yet she was praying to all possible gods and deities that Tom didn't die and he continued to live. She knew that another battle was heading their way- it was inevitable and in that battle one of the two would have to die. Would it be Harry or would it be Tom? And when the time came to raise her wand and fight could she honestly cast a spell against Tom or even Harry for that matter? Hermione pushed these thoughts away knowing that she wasn't sure she had an answer.
"I know it will work." Hermione said with a depressed sigh. Bringing Harry back was her goal since his fall but things had changed so drastically that on some night Hermione found herself thinking about destroying all the hard work that had brought them to this spot. She shook her head softly, "Why are you up Gin?"
"I'm worried about you Hermione…" Ginny's eyes had dropped down to play with the hem line of her shirt and Hermione found herself feeling bad. Not bad for making her friend worry but she felt bad for not caring about making her friends worry. She knew that she was pulling herself further and further away from the people who desperately wanted to save her; the thing was that Hermione didn't want to be saved, not by them at least.
"I can't help it." Ginny said.
"Well you better try." Hermione half shouted while slapping the warped wooden work bench and standing up. Ginny flinched and inched backwards on her seat. "I will only disappoint your Ginny. Stop worrying."
"What do you mean Hermione?" Ginny asked her eyes now narrowing. Hermione sighed and ran her hands over her face once more. "You are with us, right?"
"Of course I am, I am here, aren't I?"
Hermione knew that they both didn't buy that answer. Hermione was answering in the literal sense that she was standing beside the ride head, living with the order, and even helping rescue their savior. What Ginny had meant though was Hermione on their side for the battle. Would she stand by their side and attack the deatheaters and Tom himself? Well, would she? Hermione couldn't answer that question even if the answer was already decided. If she was with Ginny and the Order than she was against Tom. If she was with Tom then she was betraying the only family she had left.
"He can't give you what you want Hermione. He will never love you like Fred will. He will never treat you like an equal like we all do." Ginny whispered causing Hermione to laugh darkly.
"You guys treat me like an equal?" Hermione scoffed, "To you people I am dangerous; someone to keep an eye on, to not trust!"
"If we didn't trust you we wouldn't let you work on saving Harry! You could very well be coming up with a formula to kill him!"
"Or maybe it's a formula to kill every single one of you!" Hermione shouted, "Maybe I want to save Harry for Tom, after all none can live while the other survives!"
"Oh is that why you came back, to hand us all over to your little fuck buddy?" Ginny screeched jumping up and pulling her wand on Hermione. The brunette chuckled darkly.
"I would put that away Ginny, you and I both know I will destroy you without my wand. You are playing in a war that is way out of your league." Hermione's voice dropped down to a dangerous tone causing Ginny's eyes to narrow.
"What happened to you?" Ginny asked, the hatred gone only to be replaced with pain. Hermione knew that she should feel some sort of guilt but she found herself still standing with her arms crossed over her chest while looking coolly at the redhead.
"Nothing happened to me Ginerva." Hermione turned and grabbed her papers before shoving them into Ginny's hand. She watched as the girl looked over the different notes and visibly relaxed. "Now that you see I am not trying to kill your precious boy wonder, maybe you can leave me to my peace."
Ginny's eyes hardened before she thrust the pages back at Hermione. Though she attempted to keep an angry front the unshed tears began to sparkle as she huffed indigently. "Tom Riddle let you leave without a fight, stop taking out your unrequited love on us." Hermione gasped as the painful insult as the red head turned on her heel and left.
"I WILL be in that room!" Ginny shouted pounding her clenched fists on the long table that had the order members and the escaped prisoners squished together. Hermione had entered the meeting late and to her pleasure but intense curiosity spotted her husband sitting next to Angelina. The once Quidditch Player was beginning to show the pregnancy that had caused her to stay behind on the rescue mission. It was by accident that Hermione learned of the baby growing inside of her stomach but to her frustration she had yet been able to figure out who the father was.
Hermione didn't really care who the father was except for the fact that she was bored. Two days ago she along with the other researchers had finally finished the potion that would help revive Harry. It was a complicated procedure. They would force feed the thick liquid down the boys throat before painting runes on his forehead and on the palms of his hands. Afterwards Remus, who had volunteered, would chant a spell in Latin while Hermione would hover over Harry taking care of the wand movements that would activate the runes. The spell was going to take a lot out of the caster and speaker which is why the task had been split up in order to avoid an unneeded death.
"Ginny, there will be enough people in the room without you being in there as well." Ron tried to point out but his younger sister was having none of it.
"He is my boyfriend and I will be there when he wakes up."
"No, the spell is dangerous enough for those casting it. We will be in a protection circle the whole time until it is over with Ginerva, you will not be coming." Molly spoke sharply hoping to continue to have some control over her youngest daughter but instead Ginny puffed out her chest and crossed her arms.
"If there is a protection circle than there is nothing to worry about, now is there?" She lashed out.
Tired of the arguing Hermione cut off the Weasley matriarch. "The people who will be allowed in the room is as follows. Myself and Remus for we are the ones casting the spells. Dana, Andrew, Lisa, and Michael will also be there in case something goes wrong they can finish our job. Molly, you will be there for any healing that might be needed. Ron you are to be in the room as well for support when Harry wakes up and Ginny…" Hermione turned her gaze to the brown eyed red head who actually looked worried about what she was going to say. "You will also be allowed to be in the room. Harry will need you when he wakes up."
"And who exactly put you in charge?" Remus asked from his seat at the head of the table. Hermione just tilted her head slightly with a condescending smile.
"Since I am the one to step up and stop the arguing by making the decision I put myself in charge. If you have a problem with it I am sure I can find someone else to help me with the spell. You are not that important for it to work Remus." The cold remark had the room silenced. Hermione raised her brow and looked around the room, "Any other questions?"
There was no movement or comments so Hermione turned to leave the room when she ran into a solid body. Hand reached up and gripped her arms to keep her from toppling over. When she looked up she was staring into the obsidian eyes of Severus Snape. Hermione's heart leaped at the sight of him. Since the escape from Malfoy Manor she had no contact with anyone that could tell her about Tom. According to Molly when Hermione asked Severus had informed her that he was expected to stay at the Manor to help with the clean-up, wards, and plotting. To be frank Hermione had forgotten that the man was playing the role of a double spy and almost demanded to know how Tom was. It seemed like everyone in the room was waiting for her question because she could feel dozens pair of eyes on her back. So she licked her lips and stepped away from the tall imposing figure.
"I am sorry about that Professor; I will be more careful next time." Hermione said sounding as though she had no clue he had a connection to the man she loved enough to betray the people she was living with.
"See that you do Miss. Granger."
"It's Mrs. Weasley!" Fred piped up from across the table and Hermione made a face that only Severus could see. She saw the twitch of his lips before he looked over to Fred. The scathing look that he was giving the twin had Fred squirming in his seat. With a clear of his throat Remus dismissed the meeting.
"What are doing here Snape?" Remus asked making his way through the departing crowd to where he and Hermione stood.
"I was called for a meeting and this was the one chance I had to come. Your rescue mission has had the Dark Lord in an uproar, the ability to leave when one wishes to has been restricted; he is plotting his revenge."
"Revenge?" Remus laughed deeply and shortly, "For taking his prisoners? He can attempt his pathetic revenge."
"You laugh Lupin but you have never faced a man scorned." Severus snarled.
"Scorned?" Molly asked after closing the door behind the last of the leaving members. Those that remained was Severus, Molly, Remus, Ginny, Fred, George, Neville, Seamus, Ron, and Hermione.
"You took his woman- he is not happy.
Hermione's face flushed as all the eyes turned to her with shocked expressions. She fought to keep herself from jumping with the happiness that was expanding in her chest making it hurt to not smile. He still wanted her. She hadn't lost her chance.
"She was never his." A deep voice barked from across the room. Fred had risen from his chair and was stalking his way across the room. "It's my rings she wears on her fingers and my bed she sleeps in at night. You tell that murderous bastard to keep his hands off of what doesn't belong to him." Hermione went to argue but saw the miniscule shake of Severus head and instead allowed Fred to pull her close and kiss her head possessively.
"If you wish I will happily pass your message along Weasley, meanwhile- this meeting, perhaps a recap is in order?"
"If you want Professor I can explain what we went over." Hermione volunteered but Remus quickly stepped forward. His uneasiness in allowing the two to be alone together obvious by the way he glanced between them.
"Since I am the head of the Order of the Phoenix Hermione I will catch Snape up on what he missed, the rest of you are excused." Remus said his eyes jumping from face to face. Hermione caught Severus's eye and saw the promise for a talk later in the depths of them. She inclined her head slightly before allowing Fred to lead her away from the meeting room.
Holy hell….I wrote a chapter! I cannot believe it. I really thought I was going to freeze up in the middle of it but I managed to get through it! I know it has been FOREVER since I have been on to update but seriously…that writer's block…horrid. I still have it- I haven't broken it completely but I think that it will shatter soon enough. Hopefully I still have my followers and you all enjoy this chapter. I really appreciate your patience and your support; you are all the very best!