I Take All the Blame

Chapter 2

It's about one moment
The moment you think you know where you stand
And in that one moment
The things that you're sure of slip from your hands
And you've got one second
To try to be clear, to try to stand tall
But nothing's the same
And the wind starts to blow

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


I stopped dead in my tracks, only to begin sprinting moments later. It couldn't be true–there was absolutely no way they had found us. My family was safe, hidden, out of danger! It was all just a very bad dream.

But it was just too real to be a dream. My house was on fire-everything we'd worked for was being eaten up in the flames. I didn't even bother opening the front door; what was left of it was blasted into oblivion. I listened for Lizzie's cries, but they weren't there, or at least they were drowned out by the crackling of burning wood and the collapse of the stairs.

I apparated to my room, frantically searching for my family. Immediately, I was out of the bedroom and in the hallway. Lizzie's door was open, but I still heard nothing; not her, not Nick, not even Death Eaters. I ran into the room and tripped over something on the floor. Quickly rising, I stared in unbelief and terror at what–well, who–I had tripped over.

Nick was laying there, eyes wide open, an expression of complete horror frozen on his face. He wasn't breathing.

"NO!" I screamed hysterically, trying to shake him awake, bring him back to me. "NO! YOU CAN'T BE DEAD! YOU'RE NOT!"

My tears soon made any form of speaking impossible. I couldn't breathe–my heart had been wrenched out of my body, yet I was still alive, watching the villain devour what was left of me.

Stumbling, I stood and headed over to the crib. My tears increased a hundredfold and my wails became louder as I lifted my baby's slender body out of her crib. I held her tight, wishing it was just a nightmare, hoping to wake up in my perfect reality.

They killed my baby.

I began shaking violently and crumbled onto the floor, next to my husband, clutching my daughter's lifeless body to my chest. I don't know how long I stayed that way, but eventually I realized the floor was about to fall in. Sobbing, I took my fallen husband's hand in mine and dissapparated with him and my baby girl. Once safely out of the house, I returned to my previous position until my voice was gone and I could cry no more. Looking up at my burning house and the horrid sign above it, I realized I had been wrong. I was still a huge part of this war; there was no way to deny that now.

It was my life. Everything else was gone.

Slowly, I lowered my daughter and placed her next to her father. The look of horror on Nick's face sent my body into convulsions. He had been right; magic was evil. I stared at my wand, completely repulsed by the power it held. How could something be good if it caused work like this to be done all over the world? How could I belong to a group of people with the power and ability to take someone's life by simply uttering two forbidden words?

But I didn't really belong to that group of people. Sure, I had the ability to kill, but the difference was my choice. Magic itself wasn't evil, only the way it was used. I didn't belong to that group of people; I belonged to the Order, and I always would.

I looked at my wand again with a change of heart. If I hadn't been so distraught with pain and grief for my family, I might have smiled.

"Welcome back, old friend," I whispered.

I would avenge my family. I would fight and prevail.

I would win.

I decided to bury them in the same grave; Nick would have wanted that. He absolutely adored Lizzie and doted upon her constantly; I think she was the one person he ever loved more than me. He was an amazing father, and would have become an even better one as she grew older. There wouldn't be a headstone, but I'd mark the spot so I could bury them properly once this war was over.

But I couldn't do it. I dug the hole, but when I started lowering Nick into it, I broke down. There was no way I could bury my family members, not alone. I began crying again, even though I hadn't thought I had any tears left.

After what seemed to be an eternity, I heard footprints. Instantly, I shot up and whirled around, wand raised against my potential attacker. However, when I saw who it really was, I dropped my wand out of surprise.

"Hermione, what the…Merlin, I'm gonna kill them!" he exclaimed in disbelief and anger.

"Ron!" I screamed, running up to him and throwing my arms around his neck. He was safe! My best friend was alive!

Realizing this, I began to cry again; he was, but my family wasn't. It seemed impossible that I could have both with me at the same time. When my sobbing persisted, Ron responded by instinctively pulling me into a closer hug. I let him hold me tightly for a long time, trying to console me as I sobbed; it wasn't nearly enough comfort, but it was almost enough to have him there, to know that I wasn't completely alone.

After a while–I don't know how long–I fell into a restless sleep, full of haunting dreams. Everywhere I looked, Nick was there, but I could never touch him. Suddenly, Lizzie appeared in front of me and reached upwards for me to hold her. I tried and tried, but no matter what, she was too far away. She began to cry and scream, trying to get to me. I cried as well, watching her disappear into the black abyss around me. I turned toward Nick, running, trying to grab hold of him, but he only shook his head sadly.

"I will always love you, Hermione…"

I cried and cried, until I realized I wasn't dreaming anymore. Someone was brushing my hair with their fingers, their hand shaking. I looked up and saw Ron, thoughtful, yet almost catatonic in appearance. When he saw that I was awake, he forced a smile and helped me sit up.

"Thank you," I whispered softly.

He shook his head in response. We sat there quietly for a minute before anyone spoke again.

"Hermione, I'm so sorry…" he began.

"Can you help me bury them, Ron?" I asked.

He nodded solemnly, and we set to work. It wasn't an appropriate funeral service, but it served its purpose. When the last bit of dirt was in place, everything became cloudy once again with my tears. Ron held onto me, and I knew it was time to go. It was time for me to return to the Order, what I was meant to do.

It was time for me to go home.

Harry and Ginny were shocked to find me back at their house, but ecstatic to see Ron again; after the situation was explained, however, any happiness felt in the home was gone. I was just glad to have another home to go to, one with people who cared about me just as much as my family had. It could never replace them, but it was enough to keep my emotions in check.

The next few days were a blur. We had people come from all over, those I knew and those I didn't know, to express their condolences. Alia was the first, and even though it was more to see Ron than to comfort me, I wasn't hurt; I understood exactly how she felt. Had I known Nick and Lizzie would be in danger that night, I would never have gone to Ginny's baby shower. I would never have left them unprotected.

But, of course, they hadn't been; that was what bothered me. To get through all of the charms I had on that house would not have been an easy task and would have taken a significant effort. It couldn't have been only one person, and it couldn't have been a random attack; we were targeted. I assumed it was because of me, which only worsened my guilt at not having been there to protect my family.

My suspicions were confirmed the third evening after the attack. Ron and Alia were over for dinner, which they had been every night, and I realized that we still had no idea where Ron had been; with the present tragedy, it seemed altogether unimportant. I wasn't the only one who realized this, because Ginny suddenly stopped eating and looked up at Ron.

"Where were you, by the way?" she asked, a note of annoyance in her voice. "You still haven't told us."

"Well, I didn't think it was important…" he started, glancing in my direction. My heart soared in gratitude for his concern and love for me. Although he rarely showed it, he was the most selfless person I knew (aside from Harry-he's just ridiculous!) and anyone else's problems were more important and deserved more attention than his. I smiled back at him, trying to show my thanks for all he'd done for me the past few days. Still, I wanted desperately to know what he had uncovered and where he had been.

"Ron, of course it's important," Ginny said, now obviously irritated. "Merlin, your impossible!"

"What she means, Ron," Harry took over, laughing at his wife's increased impatience, "is that there's definitely a reason we lost contact with you, and we'd like to know what that reason is."

Ron forced a smile, and began playing with his food. "It's nothing, really, I just couldn't risk sending you anything. I found a Death Eater hide-out and decided to follow them around. I didn't hear hardly any of their conversations, though, so it was a bit useless. Although…"

He suddenly perked up, looking very thoughtful. "They did say something about 'breaking up the team', though. I wasn't sure what that meant at first, but when I realized it was Hermione's house they were attacking…"

He trailed off, and all eyes turned to me. I caught my breath, realizing that my fears had just become a reality.

"So, they were after me?" I said, almost in a whisper. "They were trying to kill me, and they killed my family instead because I wasn't there? Because I was part of the team?"

Silence. Under the table, Ron squeezed my hand encouragingly. I knew he was trying to let me know that it wasn't my fault, that there was no way I could have known, but it didn't help. I felt the tears coming again, and excused myself from the table. When I finally returned downstairs about an hour later, Harry and Ron were the only ones there.

"Where did Alia and Gin go?" I asked, looking around.

Harry sighed. "We didn't want to risk…well, we don't want them to be in any danger."

I nodded. "So it's just the three of us again, then?"

Ron smirked, the famous smirk that I had missed so much these past two years. "It'll be just like old times! Aren't you excited?"

I couldn't help but smile. No matter what the circumstances, they were there for me, and I would be there for them. Nothing could break our friendship, not Voldemort, not his followers. We would not give in. We would persevere.

And in the end, we would win.

***

A/N: Review, review, ReViEw!!

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