I Take All the Blame

Chapter 11

A new world crashes down like thunder
A new world charging through the air
A new world just beyond the mountain
Waiting there, waiting there
A new world shattering the silence
There's a new world I'm afraid to see
A new world louder every moment
Come to me, come to me!

*lyrics from "The New World" in Songs for a New World


As I hurried down the stairs, the only thoughts that went through my mind were of Katie and the sad ending she had. I kept imagining how she must have felt as she stared at her sister's horrified face and watched her run away in terror. I felt her shame and frustration as she ran in the other direction, horrified at her own actions and the cruelty she had shown her sister. Then she ran into me, the entire reason she had been there that night, the reason in her mind that her brother was lost to her forever. I was in her mind as she tried to run away from it all, tried to forget all that she had done. Then I had placed my arm around her, trying to comfort her, but instead torturing her. I felt her realization that she still had the knife in her hand, the weapon that had scared her sister. The weapon she would use to solve all of her problems…

"Hermione," Harry said in concern. I had grabbed the banister in panic, reliving that horrible night, finally completely understanding Katie's state of mind. I felt myself sway slightly, as if I was going to pass out.

"You all right?" he asked, placing a comforting arm around me. I wiped the tears from my eyes and nodded.

"Is it about Ron?" he pressed. I caught my breath as I realized the delay I was causing. Katie had already reached her fate, and here I was concerned more for her than my best friend.

But it wasn't for her that I was concerned. It was her sister. I glimpsed her coming out of the bedroom behind me, hiding her face from Harry as she did so. I knew it must have been incredibly hard for her to tell her story, and my heart went out to her. But for now she was safe. There were more important things to think about.

Like Ron.

Ron had been there for me through thick and thin. He was the first person I saw after I learned of my husband's death, and he hadn't left me since. I felt my heart breaking as I thought of how little time he had, and how much of it I had wasted on things that could not be fixed. I thought of the way he had always known what to say, and when to say nothing at all. He knew me so well, better than probably anyone else. I remembered the day after Katie had tried to kill me, his warm embrace, his caring and concerned words. I remembered the way he held me in the cave, trying to calm my emotions and make me feel safe.

I remembered how awkward it had been. Was there any reason that these things should have been awkward? He was a kind and generous friend who was doing everything he could to help me get through this time in my life. There was nothing more to our relationship than friendship, and there never would be. If he had ever felt that way about me, I surely would have known it by now.

I forced those thoughts out of my head. They were too confusing. Right now, the only thing I could afford to do was focus.

I was not going to lose him.

"Let's go," I said to Harry, a newfound determination to succeed coming over me. Not only was it vital that we reach Ron in time, but I was determined to not let these Death Eaters harm one other human being.

"How are we going to find them?" he asked as we ran down the stairs.

"I've already thought of that one," I said, swinging my bag over my shoulder. "We still have some Soul Searching potion left at camp. We should be able to find them easily."

Harry smiled. "Then off we go."

"Hermione?"

I turned to see Rachel standing in the doorway of the kitchen. She had finished crying, but there were still tearstains on her face.

"Yes, Rachel?"

Her face twisted in pain and she ran to wrap me in a tight hug.

"Be careful."

I squeezed her tight before pushing her away from me.

"I will. I promise."

She nodded and backed up into the kitchen where Tonks was waiting. She smiled slightly and waved.

"If one of us isn't back in four days," Harry instructed. "Send someone after us. Neville and Luna, perhaps?"

Tonks nodded obediently and turned her attention away from us. "Now, Rachel, what's your favourite kind of animal?"

Rachel shrugged. "A cat, I guess."

I saw Tonks smile and turned away as she transfigured her face into that of a cat. As we walked out the door, I heard Rachel's cries of surprise and joy.

Harry smiled. "I think they're going to get along quite well."

*************************************************

Finding the Soul Searching potion proved to be harder than we had originally thought. As I said before, the Death Eaters had cleared the campsite of everything, but luckily Ron had thought ahead and hid a few supplies in the surrounding trees. I was not the one who came up with the idea simply because I had been unconscious at the time.

However, he had not shown me exactly where the hidden supplies were. Harry and I searched the trunks of the trees for hollows, the ground for holes, and even climbed a few trees to search at the top (Harry climbed them. I wasn't quite brave enough). After about four hours of searching, Harry finally called out from the other edge of the clearing. I ran to his side to see a mahogany box sitting on the ground.

"It was a disillusionment charm," he said smiling at himself. "I noticed I kept being pushed away from this one certain area, and when I forced myself to enter it, I saw this box just sitting on the ground."

I placed my hand on my hip, panting slightly. "Brilliant, Ronald."

It was at that moment I realized just how desperate I was to find him again. I couldn't lose him. After all that he had done for me, if I wasn't able to complete one simple task for him, I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror ever again.

I seized the box and opened the lid, relieved to find that there was still enough Soul Searching potion for it to work properly. I grabbed a vial and drank it in one gulp.

Harry laughed at the expression on my face. "How does it taste?"

I shook my head in disdain. It was like swallowing vomit.

"Ronald Weasley," I said loudly, forcing myself to forget the horrible taste that was in my mouth. Almost immediately a glowing path appeared in front of me, headed north. It was like I was looking at a completely gold rainbow, except it was only visible to me. I had the impulse to try and touch it, but I forced myself to pick up a broom instead. Harry did the same, following me as I took off in the air.

This was perhaps the only time in my life that I had not felt queasy when taking off into the air. I couldn't exactly explain why, but the thought of losing Ron seemed to override any fear I had of heights. He was all that mattered to me at that moment, the highest priority in my life.

When did Ron become so important to me? When did I reach the point that the thought of losing him made me want to die? I had always cared for him, and I didn't want him to be in danger of death by any means, but the feeling I was feeling at that moment was one of pure terror. It almost matched the terror I felt when I saw Nick's body strewn across the floor of our home.

But I hadn't lost Ron yet.

And I wouldn't.

After what was only about thirty minutes, but what felt like days, I saw the end of the path. It was at another cave much like the one the Death Eaters had been using before. I was keenly aware of the fact that this time we were expected. There would be no way for us to simply sneak in past the guards.

Harry knew that this was the case as well and flew up beside me. "How do we get in?" he asked concerned.

I sighed. "I guess we just have to ring the doorbell."

Harry grimaced. "I'd much rather not be brought directly to their new leader without my wand in my possession."

"We could always just kill everyone in our way," I shrugged.

Harry looked at me strangely. "You don't really mean that, do you Hermione?"

I rolled my eyes. "We stun, petrify, everything we do best, and if someone serves as too much of a problem, we get them out of our way however we can. I think saving Ron's life is a bit more important than following the law at this point, Harry."

He shook his head, but he knew I was right. A disillusionment charm would never work; they would sense us coming in. The invisibility cloak was too small to fit both of us, and someone could accidentally step on the edge, exposing us unawares. A polyjuice potion would only last one hour, not giving us nearly enough time to save Ron and his monster of a girlfriend.

Ex-girlfriend.

I smiled to myself as I had that thought. Alia wasn't the most horrible person I had ever met in my life (I had met Voldemort himself), but she was one of the most unpleasant. I was glad that Ron had wised up and would be able to find someone more suitable for him.

If we got there in time.

A wave of panic came over me as we descended. What if we didn't get there in time? What if we too were captured and our wands were taken away?

I forced myself to forget the word failure. If I didn't, I knew that I would indeed fail.

And that was not an option.

A/N: Well, what did you think? Please ReViEw!!!!!

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