Chapter Forty-Five: Surprise

After a couple rounds of the room, I stumbled back to the bed. Fiona and the rest of the healers gave me one final look before clearing me, at the same time reminding me that they would still be checking in and that I needed to be careful.

"So what do you want to do, now that you can walk?" Ginny said, leaning forward.

"Get out of this room, for sure," I said with a sideways smile. "Maybe go to the other camp and see everyone? Harry hasn't been there yet, has he?"

Ginny jumped up suddenly. "We should find him! We should all go over there, tell them all he's alive!"

I laughed and gingerly stood. "Well, what are we waiting for?"

We headed out of the room, Ginny running ahead of me. My lips curved into a smile as I walked down the hall, away from the room that had been my prison for the last month. My leg ached with every step, but I wasn't about to show it—I could handle the pain, but everyone else would force me back to bed if they knew about it.

It was a good thing Ginny got there before I did—Harry was sitting on the opposite end of the main chamber, talking to Ron. I purposely hung back when I saw him, both because of my own feelings and out of respect for his.

When Ginny reached them, they both stood. Harry immediately turned to face her, and grinned when he saw me. Ron slowly turned as well. Our eyes met, and he managed a small smile.

"It's good to see you up and about," he said quietly.

"It's good to be up and about," I said.

After an awkward moment of silence, Ginny couldn't hold it in any longer. "Hermione and I were thinking we should go to the other camp—show them all that you're alive!"

Harry's grin widened. "That sounds like a great idea. Are you up for it, Herm?"

I nodded vigorously. "Let's get out of here."

Harry laughed. We decided that he should be under the invisibility cloak when we first got there, so the reveal would be more dramatic. We'd let everyone be excited to see me first, then Harry would reveal himself.

"I can't wait to see their faces!" Ginny squealed as we headed out of the cave. She and Harry were walking in front, and Ron and I were behind. Neither Ron nor I said a word while Harry and Ginny chatted.

As we walked out of the mouth of cave, I sped up, feeling very uncomfortable walking right next to Ron. As I did, my toe caught on a rock and I lost my balance. I let out a small cry as I started to fall. Suddenly, strong arms wrapped around me and pulled me back to my feet. I turned to find my face just inches away from Ron's, and felt my heartbeat quicken. I expected him to let go of me, even back away.

He didn't.

"Thank you," I said, forcing a small smile.

"Are you sure you're good to travel?" he said, a deep look of concern on his face. "Maybe you should stay here."

I shook my head. "I'm done sitting around."

"But if you can't walk—"

"I can walk, I'm just getting used to it again. I'll be fine, Ron, really."

He searched my face for a minute. His was still just inches from mine. Finally, he released me, but kept his arms outstretched momentarily, as if expecting me to topple over again. Trying to hide the blush on my cheeks, I walked ahead of him, ignoring the pleased looks on Harry and Ginny's faces.

After a couple more minutes, Harry put on the cloak. I felt him take my hand as Ginny took the other one. Ron apparated before us, sending me a quick look before disappearing. I closed my eyes as Ginny apparated with Harry and me. When I opened them again, I froze.

Bellatrix Lestrange stood in front of us, her wand pressed against Ron's throat. Ginny and I both reached for our wands, but one flick of hers and they were on the ground. I felt my heartbeat quicken, and tried to suppress the fear threatening to overcome me. All I could think about was the last time I'd seen her, writhing on the floor, her knife carving into my flesh—

"It's nice to see you again, Hermione," she cackled. "And the Weasleys as well. All we're missing for this little reunion is the boy-wonder himself."

I glanced at where Harry had been standing out of the corner of my eye, hoping she didn't notice.

"What are you going to do, Bellatrix?" I said, sounding much braver than I actually felt. "There's no way you can bring us all in, and I doubt the Emperor would be very happy with you if you killed us."

"Oh, I'm not going to kill you," she said, her voice sending chills down my spine.

Suddenly, she released Ron and pushed him toward us. I noticed with surprise that his wand was still in his hand. He raised it, and I saw Bellatrix's lips curve into a horrible smile.

"You're going to kill each other."

I realized a second too late what was happening. Ron pointed his wand at me and I flew backwards into a tree. Ginny scrambled for her wand and managed to grab it just in time, casting a protection charm over herself. Ron returned his attention to me—or rather, Bellatrix did. Ginny ran to help, but Bellatrix started attacking her herself.

"Ron, snap out of it!" I said, breathless. "I know you can fight it!"

I could see it in his eyes, the struggle. As he raised his wand again, his hand shook, but Bellatrix's spell was too powerful. He wasn't going to be strong enough—

"HARRY!" I yelled.

A curse shot out of nowhere, and Ron fell to the ground, unconscious. Harry whipped off the cloak, grabbed my wand, and tossed it to me. As she dueled Ginny, I saw Bellatrix's eyes grow wide.

"Expelliarmus!" said Ginny, catching the witch off-guard. Her wand went flying through the air, landing next to Ron. I stood, ignoring the new pain in my leg, and Harry and I both moved to stand next to Ginny. All three of us had our wands raised.

Ginny took a step forward. "How did you know we were going to be here?"

"That's not the question you should be asking, is it?" Bellatrix said, her evil grin reappearing. "You should be asking me if I know about your little cave half a mile away."

My heart dropped. Bellatrix's grin widened.

"Whoops. Well, I guess you know the answer to that question."

"What did you do?" I demanded.

"Me? I didn't do anything."

She cackled chillingly.

"But who ever said it was just me?"

"Ginny, Harry, wake up Ron and run to the cave," I said, trying to hide the panic in my voice. "I'll stay here."

"Hermione—"

"I'll only slow you down," I said, cutting Harry off. "You need to go now!"

There was no more arguing. Harry retrieved Bellatrix's wand and pocketed it while Ginny revived her brother. Once they were sure Ron was no longer under the curse, the three of them disappeared into the trees. Bellatrix's crooked smile didn't falter for one second.

"Run, run, run, as fast as you can!" she called after them mockingly.

"Shut it," I muttered, and waved my wand. Bellatrix's lips pressed together tightly. She glared at me and took a step forward.

"Incarcerous!"

Ropes shot out of the tip of my wand and tied her to the nearest tree. She struggled against them, but they only tightened with her every move. After a few minutes, she stopped struggling and just glared at me, screaming without making any noise. I searched her pockets, found her knife, and pocketed it.

I couldn't ignore the throbbing pain in my leg anymore and was forced to sit down. I stared into the trees in the direction Harry, Ron, and Ginny had run, still watching Bellatrix out of the corner of my eye. Images and flashbacks of the torture I'd endured by her hand clouded my vision. Even with her bound to that tree, wand-less, there was a part of me that was still terrified of her.

After what seemed like an eternity, I heard a rustling in the woods. I stood, ready to defend myself, but relaxed as Ginny walked into the clearing. At seeing the expression on her face, however, my muscles tensed up again.

"They're gone," she said. "All of them."

I furrowed my eyebrows. "What do you mean?"

"Everything's where it should be—all our supplies, books, furniture, everything. There's no sign of a fight or even an ambush, but there's no one there."

"Then they must have gotten away," I said, trying to sound hopeful. "Has anyone—"

"The coins haven't changed, and no one left a note. They just—vanished."

I spun around and marched toward Bellatrix. With a flick of my wand, I lifted the silencing spell I'd placed on her. Before she had the chance to make a sound, I grabbed her by the hair and pressed my wand against her throat.

"Where are they?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

"Tell me or I swear, Bellatrix—"

"You'll what? Torture me? Kill me?" She laughed. "You don't have the stomach."

She leaned in closer to me and whispered. "That's why you'll always lose—because you're afraid to take control, to do what's necessary. And because you're so afraid, all your little friends—everyone who was in that cave—are going to die. One. By. One."

She smirked.

"And there's nothing you can do about it."

Something in me snapped. I banged her head against the tree, then stood back, wand outstretched.

"CRUCIO!"


A/N: Why, hello again! I apologize for not posting in so long. First, I was moving, and that was crazy. Then, I started having horrible stomach pains, went to the ER, and have been in and out of doctors offices ever since (and they still don't know what's wrong with me). Then, school started, and with it a new job. Then, I sprained my knee (which ironically is why I finally have time to write again - skipping classes for the day).

So I hope you can forgive me for taking so long to update. Also, I hope this chapter isn't terrible - I'm a little out of it, and was just trying to get something up for you guys.

Looking forward to your reviews!