Chapter Ten: Acceptance
I woke up wrapped in a strong embrace. For a moment, I feared everything from the day before had been a dream, that I was back at Malfoy Manor, and that it was Draco and not Ron holding me. But all my fears melted away when I heard his voice.
"Good morning, 'Mione," he whispered in my ear, then kissed my neck.
A smile spread across my face and I turned in his arms so we were facing each other. I ran my fingers through his hair.
"Good morning, Ron," I whispered back.
For a long time, we just lay there, staring into each other's eyes. Every breath, every moment was more perfect than the last. It wasn't until we heard movement outside the bedroom door that we decided it was time to get up.
I'd borrowed one of Luna's nightgowns the night before, but since I didn't have my suitcase with me, I dressed in the same clothes as the day before, with much difficulty—Ron kept spontaneously hugging and kissing me. It seemed like nothing could possibly wipe the smile off my face.
When we were finally dressed, we stepped out into the main chamber. Everyone was gathering for breakfast. I was immediately surrounded and bombarded with questions. I answered them, greeted old friends for the second time, laughed with them.
This is too good to be true.
The room grew considerably quieter when Ginny walked in. She sat down without a word and grabbed some eggs. Everyone could tell from her expression that she didn't want to be spoken to. My smile faltered.
Ron squeezed my hand. "She'll come around," he whispered, sending me an encouraging smile.
"I hope so," I sighed.
Luna came out soon after Ginny, and frowned when she saw me. "Oh dear! You're wearing the same clothes! I'll go fetch you something—"
"No, it's all right, Luna," I said. "Thank you, but I actually have a suitcase I left in the woods. I was planning on fetching it this morning."
"How will you get back?"
"Well, you could just tell me our location, and how to get back—"
Ginny stood, making everyone jump. "If anyone tells this woman where we are, I will personally lock them up and throw away the key!"
Everyone stared at her.
"Fair enough," I said quietly. "Then someone will have to escort me."
Ron put his arm around my shoulders and kissed my forehead. "It would be my pleasure."
"No," Ginny said firmly. "You are not leaving this cave."
"What? It's not like anyone will know it's me! I'll be a dog!"
"But in your animagus form, you can't apparate," I said. "I have to agree with Ginny on this one." I looked up at her, forcing a smile. "Why don't you take me?"
She folded her arms. You could have cut the tension in the air with a knife.
"Fine," she finally said, breaking the silence. "We leave in one hour. No one steps out of this cave until we're back."
She stomped back into her room, leaving her uneaten eggs.
"Yes, Mum," Ron and George muttered at the same time. I suppressed a laugh.
The hour went by quickly. Ginny didn't come out of her room until it was time to leave. When she did, she walked straight up to me, her eyes narrow.
"You try anything," she hissed, "and I will kill you on the spot, understand?"
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
Her eyes narrowed even more, but she didn't say another word. I kissed Ron swiftly and followed her out of the cave.
We walked out onto the ledge of a seaside cliff. I had to pause for a moment to take in the view—it was absolutely stunning. After we'd walked for about ten minutes, she grabbed my arm and disapparated without warning. We were back at the Burrow.
"All right, where's your suitcase?"
"I don't actually know the location, but I can apparate there."
She scoffed. "Right. Like I'm going to blindly let you apparate—"
She let out a grunt and fell to her knees. I spun around. Amycus Carrow was running toward us, a gleeful look on his face. He stopped in his tracks when he saw me.
"Stupefy!" I yelled.
He went flying and landed hard on the ruins of the Burrow. Ginny struggled to her feet.
"We have to get out of here—there could be more of them."
"No! He can't remember he saw me with you!"
I ran over to him, ignoring Ginny's yells. My spell hadn't quite knocked him unconscious—this blasted wand didn't want to obey me.
"Ginny, give me your wand!"
"Are you crazy?"
I spun around. "Look, I know you're having a hard time accepting I am who I say I am, and that's fine, but for the moment I need you to trust me! We both know I'm better at memory charms, and Astoria's wand won't work for me, so hand it over!"
After a moment of hesitation, she tossed it. Her expression told me she almost immediately regretted the decision. I caught it and in one move spun around and pointed it at Carrow. He was struggling to open his eyes.
His whole body relaxed. I smirked.
Seven years in Azkaban, and you've still got it.
"Okay, now give it back!" Ginny yelled.
I turned and walked toward her. My walk turned into a run as I heard "popping" sounds in the distance. Instead of handing her her wand, I grabbed her arm and apparated before she could resist.
We landed in the forest, right next to my suitcase. I immediately released Ginny and handed her her wand. She took it, her expression unreadable. I sat on the ground and let out a deep breath, holding in a smile.
"Merlin, I've missed magic," I muttered.
Ginny gazed at me a minute before speaking softly. "How do I know you didn't set that trap?"
"Oh for goodness sake, Gin!" I sighed. "If I set the trap, why would I have gotten you out of it? Why would I have wiped Carrow's memory, and why would I have needed your wand to do it?" I looked at Astoria's wand in my hand with a scowl. "This thing is useless. I expect it to turn on me and stun me half the time, even when I try the simplest of spells. My disguise may fool everyone else, but not this wand."
I tossed it on the ground. Ginny hesitated before sitting next to me.
"Let's say I believe you, and I'm not saying I do—" Her voice grew very quiet. "Where's Harry?"
I looked sideways at her, then back at the ground. "In a hospital in States."
I nodded. "Somewhere in California."
"That's all I know, really. Malfoy wouldn't tell me where we were going until we got there. He said it was for my own protection, and Harry's."
She hesitated again. "How did he—I mean, was he—how did he look?" she blurted out.
I turned to face her. She waited earnestly for my answer, her eyes filled with hope that she hardly dared to have.
"He looked great, Gin," I breathed, a small smile forming on my lips. "Healthy, peaceful."
She took a deep breath, and I saw the glimmer of hope flicker, threatening to go out. "But even if what you say is true, he's been in a coma for seven years—"
"And he survived the killing curse twice, and you and I both know he's survived much more than that." I took her hand, and couldn't help but laugh. "I don't know how he got so lucky, but I believe in him."
She stared at me for a moment, trying to decide how to feel. Finally, her lips twitched into a smile.
"I believe in him, too," she whispered, then threw her arms around me.
Ginny and I were laughing when we reentered the cave. Ron grinned when he saw us.
"Friends again? What happened?"
I shrugged as I set down my suitcase. "We bonded over fighting Death Eaters, as usual."
His smile faltered. "Death Eaters?"
Ginny's expression grew serious once more. She stood on top of a bench and spoke at the top of her lungs.
"Listen up, everyone—the Burrow's been compromised. It's no longer a safe spot. Grimmauld Place will now be number two."
I furrowed my eyebrows and looked up at Ron. "Number two? What is she talking about?"
Ginny hopped down from the bench and walked over to me. She reached into her pocket, pulled out something, and tossed it to me. I examined the object in my hand—at first glance, it looked like a regular galleon, but I knew better.
"The DA coins," I said, feeling a flood of nostalgia. "You all kept these?"
"Neville managed to smuggle the master one out to me before—well, I'm sure you've heard." She pulled another one out of her pocket. "We decided to assign our locations numbers, so we could add a place at the end. One is home base, here at the moment. Two was the Burrow, now it's Grimmauld Place."
"Are there any others?"
She nodded. "Three is Hogwarts. Four is the old Ministry, known better now as the Emperor's headquarters. And five is his palace."
I raised my eyebrows. "Those sound like dangerous places to meet."
"We haven't used them yet, and we don't plan to until we're ready to attack, but it's good to be prepared." She eyed me for a moment. "I'm thinking it might be good to add Malfoy Manor to the list too, if the two of you are really going back there."
Ron looked between his sister and me. "I wasn't sure you'd be okay with that plan," he finally said.
Ginny sighed. "I figured I wouldn't be able to stop you anyway. We'll add the manor as number six," she continued, refocusing her attention on me. "We also decided we should have multiple masters, just in case, and so we could send messages to each other if we were separated. It took us a while to figure out without you around, but Luna pulled through."
"So who has the masters?"
"George, Luna, Ron, me," she sent me a sideways smile, "and now you."
I grinned and wrapped her in a tight hug. She laughed and hugged me back.
"Hey! I thought that was supposed to be mine!" Seamus stood and folded his arms, but he was still smiling.
"Here, Seamus." Ron took his out and flipped it to him. "Hermione and I will be together, so I won't need one."
Ginny frowned. "What if you get separated?"
"I'm not letting her out of my sight for one minute," Ron said, wrapping his arms around my waist.
Ginny rolled her eyes, but I glimpsed a smile.
"So what do you guys have in the works right now?" I asked. "Anything I can help with while I'm here?"
"Well, we're still waiting on some intel before our next strike," said Ginny. "You don't happen to know the rounds of the guards at the old Ministry, do you?"
"I haven't been there since I got out of Azkaban, but I bet I could find out."
Ginny shook her head. "We already have someone who works there on our side, but he's late getting back to us. If we don't hear from him by the end of the week, then you can check it out."
She turned and went into her room. Ron rested his chin on my shoulder.
"See. I told you she'd come around."
I smirked. "All it took was a few Death Eaters."
"Did they see you?"
"Amycus Carrow did, but I wiped his memory."
I could almost feel him smile. "Same old Hermione."
"Speaking of memory charms," I pulled out of his embrace and turned to face him, "I heard some rumors—about my parents—"
Ron sighed. "We don't know, Herm. We've heard the rumors too. I'm sorry to say they're probably true."
I forced a small smile. "It's not your fault. I knew it was too much to hope to get everyone back. I just—I just hope they didn't suffer."
He hugged me again. After I took a few deep breaths, we both sat down for lunch. Fred ran over and sat in my lap, taking me by surprise. Angelina tried to apologize and take him away, but I told her it was all right. I couldn't help but smile when I looked at the boy—he was proof that there was still good in the world, even with Voldemort in control.
"Did you know Uncle Harry?" he asked after a while.
"Yes, I did."
"Was he a hero?"
"Oh, he most definitely was."
He looked at me with a confused expression. "Then why did he lose?"
"He hasn't lost," I whispered in his ear. "Not yet."
His face lit up, and he ran over to his dad. I smiled as I watched George play with him.
"Do you think that will be us one day?" I muttered to Ron.
He followed my gaze and grinned. "Well, we have a pretty good track record for cheating death, so I'd bet on it."
"How did you do that, by the way?" I said, turning in my seat to face him. "Malfoy told me you were publicly executed."
"That was a fun one," Seamus chimed in, grinning.
"For you, maybe." Ron rolled his eyes. "Seamus snuck into the crowd and stood right behind the executioner."
"You-Know-Who didn't plan on killing you himself?"
Ron shook his head. "The whole reason he held my execution was to draw Ginny out of hiding. The executions were held in the Quidditch stadium. He was sitting above the whole crowd, looking for her or anyone else who might come to save me."
I looked at Seamus. "Okay, so how'd you do it?"
"First, the lovely Luna cast a disillusionment charm on me," he said, winking at her, "then I snuck in the back way. There were spells all around the main entrance to reveal enchantments, but not the back."
"We learned that the hard way at Neville's execution," Luna said softly.
There was a moment of silence, then Seamus went on. "Everyone in the crowd was outraged, so we decided to use that to our advantage and start a riot. Right after the executioner cast the killing curse, I started blowing things up, and the crowd went crazy, which gave me the window to grab Ron and disillusion him, too."
"Wait—you said 'after' the curse was cast."
"He forgot to mention when right before the Death Eater finished the curse, he hit me with a knockback jinx." Ron didn't look amused. "He cut it a little closer than I would have liked."
"It had to look like you died, mate!"
"So you're telling me," I leaned forward, one eyebrow raised, "that you, Seamus Finnigan, single-handedly rescued Ron Weasley at his public execution held by the Dark Lord?"
Seamus blinked. "No, not single-handedly. Luna and Dean were blowing things up too."
I shook my head. "That shouldn't have worked."
"But it did," he said with a grin. "Never underestimate the power of explosions."
"I mean you never should have made it in there alive, let alone out."
Seamus shrugged. "It's a big stadium."
I let the subject drop. Still, it didn't make sense. The Dark Lord certainly would have had more security around the Quidditch field than that...
"Believe me, I think it's odd too," Ron whispered in my ear, "but I've decided just to be grateful I'm still alive."
I leaned my head on his shoulder. "I'm grateful for that, too."
He grinned. "You know, the Daily Prophet just did a spread on how your funeral marked the final end to the 'Golden Trio.' Imagine what a headline it'll make when they find out we're all alive."
I couldn't hold back a smile. "You-Know-Who won't even see us coming."
Now all we needed was for Harry to wake up.
A/N: I know many of you are anxious to see Draco again, and I promise he'll be back soon! Just answering some questions and setting up for future events :) Hope you're still enjoying, and thanks so much for the unbelievable support!