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I Take All the Blame

By hermionegarner

Romance / Adventure

Chapter 1

It's about one moment
The moment before it all becomes clear
And in that one moment 
You start to believe there's nothing to fear
It's about one second 
And just when you're on the verge of success 
The sky starts to change 
And the wind starts to blow 

*lyrics taken from "A New World" in Songs for a New World

***

Looking back, I don't really know how it happened. One day, I was completely content saving the world with my two best friends, and the next, my world was turned upside down. When Nick and I met over the summer four years ago, I didn't want to go back to Hogwarts-I didn't want to be away from him. It was no longer enough to just be Hermione Granger, the brain of the 'Golden Trio'. I wanted something more.

Now that things had changed, I didn't think I could be any happier. I smiled, lowering my beautiful baby girl into her blue crib. We had been certain she would be a boy, but I like the color blue better anyway; pink is so overdone.

I sat there for a while, thinking about how perfect my life was. Yes, there was still some fighting going on, even after Voldemort had died, but my family and I were safe. I didn't have anything to do with it anymore.

I heard the creek of the old floorboards as Nick walked up behind me, lovingly placed his hands on my shoulders, and gazed over them at little Eliza Ginerva Rollins. He had wanted to name her after me, but I bluntly refused; Ginny's name was more suitable. Nick smiled, and I knew neither of us had ever been as happy as we were now, completely away from danger, hidden, full of love.

Lizzie was almost a year old, and she learned everything so fast! She started trying to walk at around six months and finally succeeded at nine. She said her first word at about three months and, to my utter disappointment, it was 'Daddy'. I had been tempted to use magic to teach her 'Mommy' first, but that part of my life was completely over. I hadn't touched my wand for three years.

Well, that wasn't entirely true. Occasionally, I would use it to apparate and visit Ginny. I had to go two years ago when Harry had finally proposed to her, one year after Voldemort was defeated; I was the Maid of Honor! Nick went as well, but since he was a muggle we didn't stay nearly as long as I had hoped.

Nick wanted to know as little about magic as possible, so I gave it up. Voldemort was gone; I didn't really need magic to live anymore. We were married about a month after Voldemort died, three days before my nineteenth birthday, and I locked my wand up in a safe that same day. We still lived in hiding, however, since there were plenty of Death Eaters to go around, but we were safe and carefree, living the best times of our lives. When Lizzie came along, everything just got better.

Today, however, was one of the days that I was going to visit Ginny, which always made Nick uneasy. He was convinced that someone was going to attack their house and he would never see me again; I told him I still had a few tricks up my sleeve, but I think that might have scared him even more. He really doesn't understand how wonderful magic is! I wish he did.

He sighed and wrapped his arms around me. "Do you really have to go?"

"Nick!" I replied, laughing, "It's her baby shower! Of course I have to go!"

"It's not really a baby shower with only you, Ginny, and Luna there, Hermione."

"It won't be just us; Mrs. Weasley, Penelope, and Fleur…"

"Members of her family don't count," he said, smiling.

I made a face. "Tonks, McGonagall, and Ron's girlfriend Alia will be there too, Nick."

"Neither do members of the Order."

"Then I'll be the only one there!" I said, laughing.

He kissed the top of my head. "Thank goodness for that!"

I half-smiled. No, I wasn't a member anymore; I quit when we got married. Still, it hurt to say it; I really did miss spending time with everyone, but they all understood. I decided my family was more important than fighting this battle, and no one held any grudges against me because of it.

I slowly left his arms and moved to our bedroom. The safe was hidden behind our wedding picture; very cliché, but what better place to put it than the most obvious? I heard Nick enter behind me, staying in the doorway as I retrieved my wand. To this day, he still cannot bear to see me hold it; he's very religious, and the scripture Exodus 22:18, 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live', has been haunting him since he met me. I would find it amusing if I didn't feel like a part of me were missing, and if I didn't know that Eliza was going to be a witch as well.

When the safe door opened, I caught my breath. I felt a strange force of energy within me when I picked up my wand again, but quickly stuffed it into my back pocket. Still, it felt like it belonged, and I missed it being there, my constant companion. I could tell Nick noticed my grin, because he frowned, just like always. I smiled sympathetically and went over to hug him. He returned my motion, but not with as much sincerity as usual. I decided to squeeze him as tight as possible until he hugged me properly, and he laughed, quickly stealing away my breath with his burly arms.

"All right, Nick!" I managed to say.

He laughed again. "I will always love you, Hermione, no matter what, whether you're a witch or not. But that doesn't mean I have to like it."

I smiled in return. "Agreed."

"I love you, Hermione."

"I love you, too."

We kissed, and, after instructing him on what to do if Eliza woke up, I stepped outside, almost giddy with excitement. I was going to see them again; it had been a year now since I'd seen Harry and Ginny (they'd come over when Lizzie was born), but I hadn't seen anyone else since their wedding. The only person I wasn't seeing tonight that I really wanted to was Ron; he was on a 'special assignment' somewhere out of the country. Besides, he wasn't going to be at Ginny's baby shower, whether or not he was in the area. Harry would have news of him, though, and that would be enough. It was nice that we were still best friends even though I was no longer part of the 'Dream Team', or whatever you wanted to call us. I didn't want to lose their friendship for anything, and I hadn't.

Once out of the Circle (that was the only other magic I had used-protection charms. Nick didn't have any problem with those!) I spun around and apparated. As always happens when I haven't done it in a while, I felt like I would vomit, but quickly regained a hold of myself at the beautiful sight before me.

The small cottage in front of me was the most charming thing I've ever seen! If anyone else could have seen it, they would have described it as being a run-down shack, but since I knew the secret keeper (Ron) and had been told of its location, the house was absolutely delightful! Ginny had been hard at work painting the outside walls gold and all of the window-frames red, as well as the doorway. Any witch or wizard would know this belonged to the house of the two most dedicated Gryffindor's on earth.

Almost the moment I appeared, Tonks was out the door and I was buried in her embrace.

"Oh, Hermione! We thought you weren't going to make it!"

I laughed. "I wouldn't miss it for the world, Tonks! Lizzie was having some trouble falling asleep…"

"Merlin, I still haven't visited you and your family, have I? I really need to!"

"You're welcome anytime!" I said, smiling. "As long as you don't lead any Death Eater's to us."

Tonks laughed, but was soon out of sight as a crowd of the most influential women I had ever known surrounded me. Fleur had her two children, three-year-old Victoire and newborn Jacques, but somehow still managed a hug. Luna nearly knocked me over with her excitement, rambling on about the nargle colony or nest or whatever her and Neville had found in their basement. Mrs. Weasley smiled warmly and chastised me for not visiting sooner, while everyone else stood by, smiling. The only person I didn't recognize was a petite, dark-haired girl I assumed was Alia. She smiled kindly, but I could tell there was something wrong; maybe she just felt awkward around people that were new. In any case, I smiled back warmly, and she turned to go inside.

Being led by the mob of witches in front of me, I entered the Potter's living room. It was just as spirited as the outside, but this time with red walls and gold accents. Ginny was sitting on her couch, humongously pregnant, smiling like it was Christmas morning and she had just been told all the Death Eater's were dead.

"How dare you be late to my party, Herm?" she teased, grinning widely.

I laughed. "Nick wouldn't let me leave, Gin! Can you ever forgive me?"

"Can I forgive you?" she asked, blinking. "He hasn't let me see you for a whole year! I'm surprised he let you come today!"

Everyone laughed, except Alia, of course. I got the impression that she was still very new and felt excluded from the group. Seeing a complete stranger greeted the way I just was probably made her feel like even more of an outsider. I certainly hoped not.

I sat on the couch next to Ginny and embraced her. She was my very best friend in the world; no one knew me better than she did. The closest friends I had other than her were all men, and they can never understand exactly how a girl is feeling. Ginny smiled and I knew that our friendship would never be in danger of dying.

Harry entered the room and beamed when he saw me. His hug was tighter than anyone else's in the entire room, and I laughed at the expression on his face. I also knew that this friendship was perpetual, that we would always be there for each other. No matter how uncomfortable it made Nick, we would always be the 'Golden Trio'. The only person missing from our reunion was Ron.

After the presents were opened, I sat with Harry and Ginny in the corner to ask about him. Their faces seemed to fall slightly and they looked at each other, worried.

"What's wrong?" I asked, anxious.

"He's…he's just been gone longer than expected," Harry replied.

"Merlin, Harry!" Ginny blurted out. "He's been gone for three months longer than expected. Poor Alia's a wreck!"

My heart skipped a beat. "He's missing?"

"Yes," Harry replied. "We lost contact about a month ago. I don't have a clue what's going on…"

"Excuse me," came a voice from behind. I turned to see Alia's blue eyes staring down at me. She smiled, but again it did not reach her eyes.

"Hello!" I exclaimed, smiling in return. "You're Alia, right?"

"Of course," she replied, nodding her head. "And you're Hermione?"

"Yes."

She half-smiled. "Ron's told me so much about you."

"Has he now?" I asked, taken aback.

She nodded. "Oh, yes! Last time I spoke to him, he expressed that if I saw you before he did again, I had to tell you that he misses you tremendously and that you are a slimy old toad for not visiting more often."

I laughed. "Well, you can tell him that it's my husband who's being the slimy old toad…once he gets back, that is."

She nodded, her smile fading when I mentioned that he was not back yet. I sighed; I always seem to say the wrong thing. After another minute or so of discussion, she left to converse with Mrs. Weasley. I heard Ginny sigh and saw Harry's anxiousness written across his face. I wondered if mine said the same thing, but then I knew it must. He was my best friend, and he was missing. Of course I was concerned.

The party ended an hour later, but I stayed for another hour after that to gossip with Ginny. Harry tried to stay awake, but was soon sound asleep on the couch after about five minutes of our 'girl time', as he put it. It just felt so right being there, talking about magic, about everything with Ginny.

I knew I'd made my choice, but I often wondered if giving up magic was the right thing to do. It was a part of me, after all, and played a huge role in my life. I knew I could live without it, and I had for the past three years, but there was something missing in my perfect life, something missing in me.

And it wasn't just about magic; I was missing my friends, the people who made me the way I am. If it weren't for Ron's comment that forced me into the girl's bathroom, I would never have been attacked by the troll, Harry and Ron would never have saved me, and we would most likely never have been friends. To think about that possibility was heart-wrenching; I would be an entirely different person were it not for them, and I'm thankful they switched the direction of the track I was riding.

So yes, there were regrets, but none strong enough for me to give up my family. I loved Nick with all my heart, and Lizzie was the most precious treasure I possessed. I wouldn't let them go for anything.

As I said goodbye, I felt tears come to my eyes. Who knew when we'd see each other again? I was going to try to come when the baby was born, but there was no guarantee I would be able to make it. I held onto the possibility, though, as I stood in the doorway, hugging two of the most important people in my life.

As Harry held me tightly, he whispered in my ear, "Don't be a stranger, okay?"

I smiled. "I'll try my best."

The two of them waved as I walked out of their circle. At that moment, I was whole…well, if you forget about the part that was missing Ron. But I felt complete. I knew Nick would welcome me joyously when I returned, and I was looking forward to his smile.

I dissapparated, and turned to face our house. In that moment, my happiness was shattered. It was twisted and turned into complete terror.

The Dark Mark stood above my house.

***

A/N: Please ReViEw! Let me know what you think!

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