Chapter Nine: Resistance
My head was filled with voices. It sounded like people arguing, but I couldn't make out anything they were saying. My whole body ached. I tried to stretch out, but I couldn't move—I was tied to a chair. The air smelled like mildew, and I could hear water dripping in the distance.
With some effort, I forced my eyes open. I seemed to be in some sort of cave. It was dark, and my vision was blurred, but I could just make out someone in the distance. The figure moved in my direction, then turned into two figures, one short and one tall. As they drew closer, the voices became louder.
"We should just let her go—drop her off somewhere in the woods."
"That sounds like a brilliant idea, George."
"I'm not kidding! This was a horrible idea to begin with, Gin!"
My heart soared, and I blinked furiously to bring my eyes into focus.
"We never should have brought her here," George continued. "You know how close the Greengrasses are to the Dark Lord."
"Then she'll be of use to us, won't she?"
"Look, I know you're still upset about Hermione—we all are—but this kind of rash thinking is exactly what—"
They'd reached me. George cut himself off when he saw I was awake. Ginny continued walking towards me, her eyes narrow.
"Ginny," I breathed, hardly believing my eyes.
"I see I need no introduction." She folded her arms. "Then again, I have been the Empire's 'Most Wanted' for the past seven years. You, however, just recently made the papers. Congratulations on your engagement."
Her sarcasm was meant as a slate. It brought a huge smile to my face.
"Let's get right down to it," she said, apparently ignoring my expression. "What were you doing at my old house?"
I laughed. "I don't know. It was the first place I thought to go."
They both stared at me. My smile grew wider and wider by the minute.
"What do you mean?" George asked.
"Well, it was either there or Grimmauld Place, but the Burrow's more remote, so—"
"So you were looking for us," Ginny said.
"No." I shook my head and laughed again. "I had no idea I would run into you."
"Maybe we hit her head too hard," George muttered.
I laughed again. They exchanged a confused glance, then turned to leave.
"No, wait! Don't go!"
Ginny paused and half-turned around. "So you're going to tell us what you were doing there?"
"I wanted to be close to Ron, and it was the only place that seemed right."
George turned now as well. Ginny narrowed her eyes even more.
"My brother is dead. And why would you want to be 'close' to him, anyway?"
"Ginny," I said, leaning forward eagerly, "it's me, Hermione."
Both of them froze. George looked shocked. Ginny's expression, on the other hand, was unreadable.
"You're lying," she spat.
"I'm not! I drank some Polyjuice potion—"
"Then this should be easy to settle," George said, trying to shake off the surprise. "You've been here for about forty minutes. If what you say is true, then within the next half hour—"
"No, it's—it's not that simple." My spirits started dropping. "The potion's been perfected. It won't wear off for a month—"
Ginny scoffed. "Nice try. Next time come up with a lie that's even remotely believable."
"I'm telling you the truth!" I yelled desperately as they both turned back around. "You have to believe me!"
They didn't stop. I racked my brains for some way to prove to them that I wasn't lying, to convince them of the truth.
"George! You and Fred gave Harry the Marauder's Map in our third year!"
They both stopped again. George turned around and approached me.
"What did you say?"
"The two of you stole it from Filch in what, your first year, right? You gave it to Harry so he could sneak into Hogsmeade, because his aunt and uncle wouldn't sign is permission form. You showed him the one-eyed witch passageway into Honeydukes, the password is dissendium."
George eyed me curiously. "Who told you about that?"
"Harry did, and I was furious." I laughed. "By the way, I was a big fan of the show you put on at my funeral. It was the perfect finale."
I winked at him. He hid a smirk.
Ginny didn't look convinced. "There are a number of ways you could know that."
I kept my eyes on George. "I also know that when you lost your ear smuggling Harry out of Privet Drive, when Fred asked you how you felt, you said you felt saint-like because you were 'hole-y.'" I smirked. "We both know you could have come up with a better joke."
He frowned. "I thought that was a pretty good one."
"Shut up, George!" Ginny snapped as I laughed again. "She wasn't really there! She's just messing with us."
"Ginny, you only started dating Dean because you thought it would make Harry jealous. You told me so yourself."
She snorted. "That's the best you got? Anyone could have figured that out."
I tried to think of another moment, a time we had been completely alone. Just as she was about to turn away again, I thought of one.
"The night before Bill and Fleur's wedding," I said, "we stayed up late, talking. That was the first time I admitted I loved Ron, and you told me that if I put down my books for two seconds I'd be able to see that he loved me too."
She folded her arms again, but she looked a little rattled. "That conversation could have been overheard."
"I have a question for her," came another voice. I smiled again as a young woman with long, blonde hair walked in the room.
"Luna! You still wear the radish earrings!"
She fingered them fondly as she spoke. "Your fifth year, we went to the ministry of magic. Who went, why did we go, and how did we get there?"
"It was me, you, Gin, Neville, Harry, and Ron. We rode thestrals, which was terrifying, and we went there because Vol—You-Know-Who tricked Harry into thinking he had Sirius in the Department of Mysteries."
"That's common knowledge," Ginny muttered.
"Not all of it," Luna said, her eyebrows slightly raised.
"What can I do to convince you, Gin?" I pled. "I promise I am who I say I am. You can give me veritaserum, use legilimency, whatever. Ask me anything, and I'll tell you."
"I've got one."
My heart stopped. A third redhead entered the room. There were new scars on his face, but it was his face. My whole body went numb as he stopped right in front of me.
"Ron?" I breathed.
"What are you doing in here?" Ginny yelled, furious.
Ron ignored her. He sat on his heels, so our faces were level. He stared into my eyes, and I stared into his. They were just as I remembered, only colder, hardened by the past seven years.
This couldn't be real—he'd been publicly executed, he couldn't be here—
Please tell me I'm not dreaming.
"May 2nd, 1998," he said, just loud enough so I could hear. "The battle had just started. What happened in the room of requirement?"
I felt tears come to my eyes, and struggled to get the words out. "We'd just destroyed Hufflepuff's cup. Both of us had our arms full of basilisk fangs. You said we'd forgotten about the house-elves, that we didn't want any more Dobbys, we should send them away. I dropped my fangs, I ran to you," my lips quivered, "and I kissed you. And you lifted me into the air and kissed me back."
His breathing quickened. Everyone was completely silent.
I chuckled. "Harry yelled at us, said, 'Oi! There's a war going on here!' And you said, 'I know, mate, so it's now or never, isn't it?'"
Still silence. Ron seemed completely frozen.
"I've relived that moment a thousand times," I whispered. "It was the only thing that kept me going. I—I never thought I'd see you again."
I let out a sob. Tears formed in his eyes, and my own tears rolled down my cheeks. Everyone else, everything else seemed to disappear.
"Untie her," he said in a choked voice.
"Ron, you can't—"
"Ginny, there were only three people in that room! Harry, Hermione, and me!"
I smirked. "You mean Harry, Hermione, and I."
He let out a sound halfway between a sob and a laugh. "Untie her, now!"
George and Luna immediately obeyed. Ginny remained where she was, staring at me. But I wasn't looking at her—my eyes were locked on Ron's.
As soon as I was free, I stood. Ron stood with me and wrapped me in his arms, kissing me like I'd never been kissed before. I melted against him, never wanting the moment to end.
Ron pulled back, just enough to stare into my eyes. I was completely breathless.
"I thought you were dead," I muttered.
He laughed. "I thought you were dead."
I brushed his hair out of his eyes, and traced one of the scars on his cheek.
"I wish I didn't look like this," I sighed. "I wish I looked like me—"
"I don't care," he breathed, and kissed me again. Someone whistled.
"Well, that's certainly not a site I ever thought I'd see."
Ron laughed as he broke off the kiss. I chuckled. "Hello, Seamus."
He raised his eyebrows. "Do we know each other?"
"Seamus, it's Hermione," said Luna.
"I thought you might have helped George with the fireworks." I grinned. "I hope the two of you do something similar at my real funeral."
Seamus blinked, his mouth half-open. Then, without warning, he ran out of the room.
"IT'S HERMIONE! SHE'S ALIVE! HERMIONE'S ALIVE!"
I saw Ginny purse her lips, but no one else seemed to notice her hesitation. Ron led me out of the small room they'd been keeping me in and into a large chamber that was soon flooded by familiar faces. Some looked skeptical, some looked like they were about to cry. Dennis Creevey practically tackled me in a hug.
Luna ran off to find me some food. George disappeared as well. I didn't let go of Ron for one second, terrified that if I did this would all turn out to be a dream.
Ginny hung back from the crowd, eyeing me like a hawk. I frowned. I didn't blame her at all for being suspicious—I would be too in her position—but it still hurt that she didn't trust me.
Especially since I was about to tell her something she wouldn't dare to believe.
After about half an hour, Ron led me through the crowd to a door on the opposite end of the chamber. We walked into what had been made into a bedroom, and he closed the door behind us.
"How long have you been living down here?" I asked.
"This one? Just over a year. Ginny's getting restless, though. We'll probably pack up and find a new place soon."
I sent him a sideways smile. "I get the feeling she calls the shots."
He laughed. "Yeah. Well, me, her, Luna, and George, really. We work as a team. Ginny's just the most stubborn of the four of us."
"She hasn't changed much, then."
He smirked and leaned down to kiss me again. Just before our lips touched, there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," I said, laughing at the annoyed expression on his face.
Luna entered, followed closely by Ginny. "I hope chicken soup's all right. It's what we have left over from dinner."
"Chicken soup sounds lovely," I said. I met Ginny's gaze and half-smiled. She didn't react.
Another knock, and George opened the door before anyone answered. "I hope I'm invited to the party?"
Angelina Johnson walked in behind him, carrying a small boy on her hip. The boy stared at me.
"She looks different than the Aunt Hermy in the pictures," he whispered to Angelina.
"That's because she's in disguise," Angelina whispered back.
"Hermione," George said, beaming, "I'd like you to meet my son, Fred."
My lips split into a wide smile. Still holding Ron's hand, I stepped forward.
"Hello, Fred. How old are you?"
He glanced at his mother and waited for her to nod before answering me. "Five."
"They'll have time to 'bond' later," Ginny said before I could respond. "Angelina, could you give us the room?"
Both of Fred's parents shot Ginny disapproving looks, but Angelina obediently turned toward the door.
"Say goodbye, Freddie."
"Mum, Aunt Ginny has her mad face on again."
Angelina sighed. "Yes, she does."
Ginny's frown deepened as the door closed behind them. I bit my lip, but knew better than to say anything. She turned around.
"All right, start explaining."
"Start with who gave you the Polyjuice potion, and how they got it past the guards."
"Well, I don't know how he smuggled it in, or how he got his hands on keys to my cell, but Draco Malfoy's the one that got me out."
Everyone stared at me. Even Ron looked suspicious.
"Draco Malfoy?" George scoffed. "Why would he do that?"
I sighed. "I'm just beginning to understand that myself. He said he'd changed—I'm not so sure."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Okay, let's say you're telling the truth. Who's body was burned at your funeral?"
"It's obvious, isn't it?" Luna said, a frown on her face. "She still looks like Astoria Greengrass, so it must have been Astoria's body the dementors found."
"Luna's right. Dra—Malfoy switched us."
Ginny was looking more skeptical by the minute. "Malfoy killed his fiancée and snuck you out of Azkaban in her place?"
"Believe me, I know how crazy it sounds!" I said, exasperated. "But it's not nearly as crazy as what I'm about to tell you."
"Oh, and what would that be?"
I hid a smile. "Harry's alive."
The room filled with gasps. Ginny's face turned white.
"Is that possible?"
"You've seen him?" breathed Ron.
"Yes!" I gazed up at him. "I thought it was too good to be true, too, until Malfoy took me there—"
"Okay, what does he have to do with any of this?"
I opened my mouth to answer, but was cut off.
We all turned to face Ginny. She was breathing so heavily her whole body heaved up and down.
"This is ludicrous." Her fiery eyes stared me down. "If Harry was alive, we wouldn't be in this mess. 'The Emperor' would be defeated, we wouldn't be living in hiding, Fred wouldn't be growing up a fugitive—"
"He's been in a coma," I said gently. "He still is."
She shook her head. "I don't believe you."
"I've seen him, Gin!"
"Don't call me that!" she yelled. Her whole body shook as she ran out of the room.
Luna sighed. "I'll go see if I can calm her down."
"Don't tell anyone else about Harry," I said quickly. "The less people that know, the better."
She nodded and left. It was just me, Ron, and George. After about a minute of silence, George cleared his throat.
"Well, I'll leave you two alone now." He said with a wink.
I chuckled as he left. Ron brushed my hair behind my ear, and I closed my eyes.
"I can't believe we're together again after all these years," he said.
"What have you been doing all this time?"
"Little things here and there to derail 'the Emperor's' attempts to take over the world." He sighed. "As I'm sure you noticed, we haven't had a ton of success."
I opened my eyes looked up at him. There was so much I wanted to ask him, but I didn't want to ruin the moment.
He shook his head at me, smirking. "Even in this body, I can tell when you want to say something and won't."
I tried to smile, but couldn't. He waited patiently until I was ready to speak.
"Why didn't you come for me?" I whispered.
His smirk disappeared. "I did. Three times. We were about to try a fourth time when we heard that you'd—" He shook his head and cupped my chin in his hand. "Don't you ever think for I forgot about you for one second."
My eyes welled up with tears again, but I held them in and kissed him instead. He held me tightly, and I sighed against his lips.
"So what happened?" I said when we parted. "When you tried?"
He frowned and walked over to the bed, motioning for me to sit next to him. I did, and curled up against his chest. He held me close and we laid back.
"The first time we were lucky. It was me, Ginny, George, and Luna. Obviously, we all got out safe, but we didn't make it very far to begin with. We didn't have you to help with the planning."
I smiled. He ran his fingers through my hair.
"The second time went a little better. Charlie had a semi-trained dragon, and me and him rode it, hoping to break you out that way."
I grinned. "I wonder who's idea that was."
He chuckled. "I'll admit, our experience at Gringgotts was inspiring."
"So what happened?"
"This happened." He pointed to the scars on his face. "The dementors frightened the dragon. We barely managed to make it back to shore before he attacked us."
"And the third time?"
He was very quiet for a moment. "The third time was the worst. We took a larger group, hoping there would be strength in numbers." He shook his head. "Five people got left behind."
"Who?" I asked hesitantly.
"Oliver Wood, Hannah Abbott, Terry Boot, Dean, and Percy."
My heart dropped. "Do you know what happened to them?" I said in a small voice.
He took a minute to answer. "They were all kissed."
I closed my eyes. I knew it wasn't my fault, but somehow it felt like it was. Ron held me tighter.
"What's important right now," he whispered in my ear, "is that I will never, ever leave your side again."
I frowned and slowly sat up. "Actually, I can't stay. I have to leave in a week."
Ron sat up as well. "What? Why?"
"I'm Astoria now, remember?"
"Who says you have to stay Astoria?"
"It would look suspicious if I just vanished," I sighed. "And as odd as it sounds, the Dark Lord actually trusts me. If I keep up with this, we have a real shot at getting into his inner circle."
"Keep up with what? Pretending to be engaged to Malfoy?"
"You're not jealous, are you?" I joked.
"Of Malfoy? No. But I'm not letting you go back there alone."
"What, you want to take Polyjuice yourself?" I gripped his hand and looked into his eyes. "I'm not letting you get anywhere near those people."
He smirked. "Oh, I have a better idea than Polyjuice."
Suddenly, Ron was gone. In his place was a large dog with red fur, but its eyes were still the same bright blue as Ron's.
I gasped. "You learned to—how did you—?"
He barked, put his forepaws on my shoulders, and pushed me down on the bed as he changed back into himself. He was smirking, that signature smirk I loved so much.
"I figured if Peter Pettigrew could learn how to do it, it shouldn't be too hard for me. Besides, I'm supposed to be a dead man—what better way to hide in plain site?"
Speechless, I threw my arms around his neck and pulled him down on top of me. He laughed before wrapping me in his arms and bringing his lips to mine.***
A/N: Looking forward to your reviews! :D