I Take All the Blame

Chapter 13

Why do I keep running from the truth
All I ever think about is you
You've got me hypnotized, so mesmerized,
And I just got to know...


~lyrics from "Crush" by David Archuleta


I knew someone was following me before I even heard their footsteps. Just as I passed outside of the cave, I whirled around to face my pursuer.

Alia stopped, panting, her arms slightly raised as if in surrender. "Hermione, I just wanted to talk."

I forced myself to forget my feelings and just walk away. I didn't have any time to lose, and I wasn't going to waste the little time I had left on her.

"Wait, Hermione! Let me explain!" she called after me.

"There's nothing to explain!" I responded, surprised by the hoarseness of my own voice.

"I didn't know what I was doing—"

"YOU KNEW PERFECTLY WELL WHAT YOU WERE DOING!" I screamed in frustration, turning sharply to face her. She stared at me with frightened eyes, but I didn't care. She had lost my respect in all forms of the word.

"I understand what you were thinking," I sneered. "You wanted me out of the way. You felt that I was the reason Ron decided he didn't love you."

"That's not it at all—"

"You wanted me dead! Just like everybody does!" I shouted, tears falling down my face. "You wanted me dead simply because I cared about someone, and they cared about me too!"

My thoughts turned to my dear husband and his sister. Both Katie and Alia had decided to sacrifice their integrity and loyalty in order to get rid of me. It was like I was a disease, incurable and untraceable. Somehow, I escaped all attempts at capture, while everyone I interacted with became infected and suffered the consequences that should have been mine. I had set out in a blind rage, hoping to redeem myself and be victorious over the people who had cost me so much pain.

But I had lost. There was nothing, no one left but me. They were all gone.

And it was all my fault.

Alia knew I was right. She knew perfectly well what she had been feeling as she sought out the Death Eaters.

"I have nothing more to say to you," I whispered menacingly. The hatred in my voice was absolutely shocking. I honestly could not understand why someone would sink so low to betray the ones they loved.

As I turned to walk away, her voice stopped me.

"He loves you, you know. He always has."

"Merlin, Alia, when are you going to let him go!" I yelled. "There's no way he'd ever take you back now!"

Her voice shook as she spoke, "I have let him go."

"Apparently! You sold him out!"

"If the two of you survive this," she started, ignoring my comments. "Don't discard him. He wants nothing but for you to love him."

Deciding I wasn't going to waste any more time, I turned my back on her definitively and ran into the woods to find my broom. She didn't try to call me back.

I didn't want to admit it, but something about what she had said had affected me deeply. I thought back to the way Ron had changed, how he wasn't the immature friend I had always known any more. His first and only concern over the past few weeks had been my happiness and well being. Was it really such an absurd idea that he did love me?

He couldn't! I would have known by now! He would have actually flirted with me while we were in school; maybe he would have even asked me to the Yule Ball as his first pick, and not as a last resort. He would have been more opposed to my marriage to Nick, and he probably would not have agreed to be the best man.

But then again…

He was always against my relationship with Nick, from the very beginning. He even made up excuses during those two summers for me to not be the one to gather groceries. He had seemed extremely jealous of Viktor while I dated him, changing from devoted fan to almost arch enemy in a way, and we had always been close enough to joke about our relationship—but it couldn't have ever been more than a joke!

Yet, something in my heart told me that it was, and I just hadn't seen it.

Ron did love me—he was always there for me, and he only wanted me to be happy. The way that he held me in his arms the night Nick and Lizzie died, after Katie tried to kill me, in the cave…

As I took off on my broom, I let out a scream in pain and frustration. He would never try to take Nick's place, especially right after he died! He would never overstep his boundaries as a friend and comforter, especially during this emotional time for me. He knew I wasn't looking for a new husband, or any other type of romantic relationship.

But it had still happened.

Every member of my body seemed to be screaming at me, telling me to stop thinking about it, but I couldn't. I had let him hold me, had welcomed the feelings that my body responded with. I had invited him to show his emotions freely, but I hadn't understood them. I had felt comfort, but somehow I had always known it was more than that.

After flying for only a few moments, I landed as the truth began to sink in. The inexplicable feelings I had felt weren't so strange to me at all—I had felt them often, but the circumstances had forced my brain to conceal their true meaning. I placed my broom against a tree and let myself fall to the ground, shaking violently with my tears.

I had fallen in love with him.

How it had happened, I didn't know. As far as I knew, the feelings had always been there. When I saw him with Lavender Brown in our sixth year, I hadn't been able to explain what I felt then either. I had attributed my actions to a genuine dislike for Lavender, which existed, but not to the extent of my actions. I now realized I had been acting out of jealousy.

Memories began flooding my brain, showing me the truth of my thoughts. I hadn't recognized it because some portion of my brain hadn't wanted me to believe it. I had buried the emotion to the point that I had forgotten it ever existed. Ron hadn't been trying to make me love him, he was just trying to be a friend and hide his true emotions. He knew that wasn't what I wanted right now, that the thought was completely inconceivable. I wasn't ready to replace Nick.

Merlin, I love him!

Shaking my head in confusion and disbelief, I looked at my watch. Thirty minutes had passed. I needed to put aside my feelings and focus on saving him and Harry. If I stood here thinking about things that I didn't quite understand, there was no way I was going to return with the Hallows in time. I knew Harry had hid them and told no one but Ginny their location, but they were also guarded with spells, making the task more difficult.

I had flown far away enough from the Death Eaters location to now be able to apparate. Forgetting the broom, I did so and appeared in front of the Potter's cottage. Mrs. Weasley ran out of the door almost the moment I appeared, her expression stressed.

"Oh, Hermione, thank goodness! Ginny's been so worried—"

"There's no time, Mrs. Weasley," I responded quickly. "I need to talk to Ginny alone."

Mrs. Weasley's eyes widened in fear. "Is Harry all right, Hermione?"

"He will be," I responded, walking past her to meet Fleur in the doorway.

"She's right through here," Fleur said, hurrying me into the Potter's master bedroom. Ginny sat in the bed, holding a beautiful baby boy in her lap. He had striking black hair and bright blue eyes which stared at me in wonder as I entered. Fleur swiftly closed the door behind me as Ginny sat up slightly.

"What's happened?" she asked softly. I could barely imagine the stress she was experiencing. She had been so happy this morning, but at this moment she wasn't sure what to feel.

"Where did Harry hide the Hallows?" I asked, deciding not to waste any time. The little boy kept his eyes on me, not making any fuss or noise, just curiously watching this stranger in his world.

Ginny inhaled slowly. "They have him, then?"

"Harry's gotten out of tougher situations before," I said reassuringly. "He just needs a little help sometimes."

Ginny sighed, her breathing uneven. "Will you hold him?"

I nodded and took the newborn into my arms as she got out of bed. Still, he did not make any sort of protest to being out of his mother's arms.

As I looked into the child's eyes, I felt a mix of sadness and elation. I remembered the first day I had held my darling Lizzie, her innocent curiosity of the world and the undying faith in me that I could see in her eyes. I felt she had known me just as well the day she was born as the last day I saw her a year later. There was a connection, something unbreakable between mother and child. I felt silent tears join the others stained on my face and didn't bother wiping them off. The youngest Potter smiled and reached up his hand, feeling my face tenderly. I let out a quick gasp and felt once again all the love I had for my daughter in this baby. I wasn't pulled out of my trance until Ginny returned to the room with a small notebook and the invisibility cloak.

"The locations of the others are in here," she said urgently, placing it at my side and retrieving her son from my arms. "The puzzles aren't anything you can't solve. How long do you have?"

I looked at my watch. "Just over four hours."

Ginny breathed heavily and shook her head as I started to stand.

"I'm not ready to be a widow," she whispered.

"You won't be," I responded, slightly louder than I had intended to. The baby's eyes widened and he looked in my direction.

I turned and began walking through the door, but stopped.

"What's his name?" I asked.

Ginny smiled and looked tenderly at her son. "James Nicholas."

I felt my tears start returning to the surface. I knew the significance of both names, and felt an overwhelming love for my dear friends.

"Be careful," Ginny warned, her face once again looking desperate.

Unable to respond, I simply nodded, then hurried out of the house. She deserved the happy ending I lost, and I was going to make sure she didn't lose hers.

***

A/N: Please ReViEw!!!

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