I Take All the Blame

Chapter 6

You're reachin' out,
And no one hears your cry
You're freakin' out again
'Cause all your fears remind you
Another dream has come undone
You feel so small and lost
Like you're the only one
You wanna scream,
'Cause you're desperate

~lyrics from "Desperate" by David Archuleta

Sixteen days.

I hugged Ron for a long time. I really didn't want to let go; he was one of the only people I had left in this world. I felt his fingers run through my hair tenderly and smiled. He really cared about me, and he wanted to comfort and protect me.

Footsteps from behind distracted me. Ron's hand returned to his side quickly as they stopped. I slowly sat up to face a livid Alia, glaring straight into my eyes. I caught my breath, waiting for the banshee to let out her shriek, but she just stood there, trying her best to intimidate me.

The silence was maddening! We stayed in our positions for what seemed to be ages, none of us wanting to be the first to speak. Finally, Alia let out a breath and turned her eyes away from mine, giving up trying to force me into confession. Instead she set them on Ron, pleading silently.

Ron ran his fingers through his hair, "Alia, we need to talk…"

"I'll say," she replied, her eyes flickering back to me. I, in turn, rolled mine. There was nothing wrong with friends caring for one another as Ron cared for me. To an outsider it might seem suspicious, but not to someone who knew what we had been through, what I was currently going through, and how long we'd been friends.

Unless it was Alia, of course.

"It has nothing to do with her," Ron said, his eyes also flickering in my direction. For a moment, I thought saw a twinge of guilt; I can't say where it came from or why it was there, but Ron was hiding something, from both of us.

Alia shook her head and turned away from him. "I'm sick of your lies, Ron!"

She stomped into the forest furiously. Ron sighed, glanced at me, then followed her, trying to make her stop. I watched him go, wishing he wouldn't; he didn't even like her, yet he was still trying to appease her somehow.

He's a sucker for girls, I thought sadly. If not that, he just cares about people too much for his own good.

Waiting for them to return, I decided to make myself useful. We still had the Soul Searching potion to brew before Ron drank it this afternoon. Placing the ingredients in front of me, I set to work, blocking Alia's screams from my ears. Even after I finished the potion, which took about an hour and a half, the two of them were still at it. I heard muffled cries in the direction they had gone, and a soothing voice.

I sighed. No matter how much Ron tried to convince her, she would always believe he was breaking up with her because of me. Unless she left our group to move on with her life, she would try to make me miserable the rest of the time we spent together.

Ron came back before she did, rubbing his temples. He gave me a weak smile before turning to pack up his belongings. I put down the potion and went to him, deciding he needed some strength.

"How'd she take it?" I asked, kneeling as he tried to roll up his sleeping bag. "I mean, aside from the screaming and all."

Ron sighed and gave up his attempt to put the sleeping bag away. I took it from him and set to work as he spoke, "It's better this way," he said, not quite convincing me of his sincerity. "She's not happy; I know she still suspects it's because of you. In a way, it is."

I raised one eyebrow, waiting for an explanation.

He shook his head. "She wouldn't stop insulting you, Hermione! You're my best friend and she was treating you like garbage. The only thing you're guilty of is seeing her for what she really was and giving good advice to a friend."

I hid a smile as I tied the ends of the bag together, handing it to Ron. As he took it, I placed my hand on his cheek.

"Everything will work out," I said, standing. "I'm sure she'll see the truth eventually, and you can still be friends. You've done nothing wrong, Ron."

He forced a smile and set to work forcing the large sleeping bag into its container. I turned to the tent and began disassembling it carefully. As almost always happens, the poles broke apart before I extracted them from the tent itself. Determined not to use magic, I struggled with the poles, trying to re-attach them while they were still in the tent. In the process, I ended slipping in the mud onto the ground, landing very hard. I heard Ron's laughter behind me and, assuming I must look entirely ridiculous, I blushed and had just resolved to give up and take out my wand when I heard Ron walk up behind me.

"Can I help you, Miss?" he asked, his eyes twinkling with laughter.

I jerked to see him better, my eyes wide. When I heard those words behind me, my heart had soared with hope and longing. Those words, which had introduced us, changed my life, were still ringing in my ear as Ron knelt down next to me, worried. I continued to stare, lost in the warmth of my heart. No, he wasn't Nick, and I wasn't delusional to think he was, but the memory haunted my mind, playing over and over again, overcoming my sense of where I was and who was beside me. Only when Ron took hold of my arm and pulled me to my feet did I snap out of it, but my eyes did not leave his face.

"Are you all right, Hermione?" he asked, concerned. My eyes left his for the first time and went to our intertwined hands.

"I'm fine," I said, slowly removing my hand from his. "You just startled me is all."

Ron watched me, confused, as I picked up the rest of camp using my wand. I didn't look at him. It wasn't until I was done packing that I realized I'd been blushing the entire time.

Not for one moment had I actually believed that he was Nick; I wasn't crazy! But the way he had snuck up behind me, the tone of his voice, his laughter, my frustration…it was all a perfect replica of the feelings of that day, the first day Nick and I met. Naturally, I didn't feel the same way about him that I had about Nick, but as I replayed the scene in my mind, I felt a warmth inside me, one that wouldn't leave.

I shook my head, trying to forget the experience. If I dwelt on it, it would only make me miss Nick more, cause me to want him more than ever.

"The potion's ready," I said, distracting myself from the previous events. "As soon as Alia gets back, we can leave…"

"I'm here," came her forceful voice from the edge of the clearing. Her face was stained with silent tears as she walked forward and picked up the broom left out for her. She glared at me as she did so, only looking away when Ron approached.

Ron lifted up a cup and filled it to the brim with the Soul Searching potion. He drank it all in one swift movement, his face contorting in dislike for the taste. When he had recovered, he set it down and said the name:

"Blaise Zabini."

That was the only actual name Ron had acquired while spying on the Death Eaters, so he was the only one we could track. He grabbed his broom, turned to me, and smiled mischievously.

"Did it work?" I asked, hopefully.

He smirked. "Get ready for some vengeance, Hermione."

I grinned. I would never tire of having Ron fight by my side. He could make any tense atmosphere light with one well-spoken word.

Alia pushed past me as we prepared to take off. Again, her eyes locked with mine in defiance. I only shook my head.

None of it will matter soon, I thought to myself. We'll be done with this.

We took off.

When we landed, it couldn't have been sooner. I sat in a corner to collect myself as Ron put up protection spells around us. Alia sat next to me, letting her hair out of a tight bun.

She leaned close so only I could hear what she had to say, "Strange how he picks you, a witch who can't even ride a broom without vomiting."

I glanced at her, my eyes blazing. "For the last time, Alia, it's not me!"

She stood sharply and strolled over to help Ron. I wished Harry would come back; maybe then she would get some sense and leave!

I busied myself with setting up camp while they completed our circle of protection charms. When we were all finished, we sat to discuss our plan of attack.

"Can you still see the path, Ron?" I asked.

He nodded. "It ends at that hill," he said, pointing straight behind me. "I think we could make it there in half an hour."

"Then let's go!" I said, standing. Although I'm ashamed to admit it, I was excited. These murderers, these monsters, were about to finally get what they deserved. I wasn't blood thirsty—I just wanted vengeance.

Ron hesitated. "Why don't we wait one more day, Herm?"

I gaped at him. "Why? They're right here! This could be over in the next few hours!"

He sighed. "What about Harry? And Gin? I don't want to go in there without knowing…"

I bit my lip and looked at the ground. We knew this could be the death of us, and none of us wanted to go in there without Harry. We also didn't want to risk never knowing anything about their baby.

Still, they were tantalizingly close! My soul longed to race through the woods and into the hill, with or without my friends beside me. I wanted them to know what it felt like to feel the weight of death on your heart. I wanted them to finally be put to an end.

Ron lifted my chin with one finger. I hadn't noticed him stand up. "We'll get 'em, Hermione," he whispered, his usual smirk in its place.

We stood there for a moment, staring into each other's eyes. His were the same bright blue as Nick's…

Alia cleared her throat and we both turned to look at her. She was shaking. "It's getting late, isn't it? We should get some rest if we plan to kill some Death Eaters tomorrow."

Tomorrow. It would be our third anniversary tomorrow.

I volunteered first watch. As my companions lay down to sleep, I tried to relax, but I couldn't. I was absolutely certain that sooner or later a Death Eater would pass by here. If one did, I didn't think I would be able to stop myself from attacking them.

Just as these thoughts crossed my mind, I heard the crunching of leaves from somewhere in the forest. My muscles tensed up as I slowly took out my wand. The power in it surged through my body, as well as adrenaline, as I waited for the creature to show itself.

Slowly, a figure formed in the darkness. He or she was running towards me, sobbing. I stood, inching towards the outskirts of our circle. When I glanced back, I saw that neither Ron nor Alia had woken up. Curse heavy sleepers.

As the figure came into the moonlight, I gasped.

"Katie?" I exclaimed.

Katie Rollins slightly flinched at the sound of her name, barely glancing in my direction. She continued to sob. I ventured forward, trying to speak consoling words, but as soon as I was close enough to touch her, she turned and fled in the other direction.

I rushed back into the circle and woke a groggy Ron so I would be able to leave the clearing. As soon as he was up, I grabbed a broom and began flying over the trees, searching for my sister-in-law, my husband's best friend. I found her in another clearing about a mile away. She ran fast.

She was wailing as I landed—I was surprised I hadn't been able to hear her sooner from all the noise she was making! She had fallen on her knees in exhaustion, her head between her legs, hands shielding its top. Her sandy brown hair was uncombed and knotted, as if she had been in a fight recently. Seeing the condition of her hands and legs, it was almost certain she had been. She lifted her head slightly as I approached, just enough for me to see her black left eye. I dropped the broom and ran to her side, throwing an arm around her in comfort.

"Katie, what happened?" I asked, gasping at the purple bruises and open cuts scattered all over her body. "Who did this to you?"

Suddenly, Katie stood up, her eyes filled with wrath. There was a dull kitchen knife in her hand, pointed at my heart. Taken off guard, I scrambled for my wand as I tried to stand. It had been in my back pocket…

I looked up to see Katie twirling it above her head in the air. She had grabbed it as I knelt to comfort her.

I gaped at her. "Katie, what are you—"

"SHUT UP!" she screamed. I flinched at the harshness in her voice. She advanced towards me, still twirling my wand, knife still pointed at my heart. "ALL THAT COMES OUT OF YOUR MOUTH IS LIES! SHUT UP!"

I remained silent. She was breathing deeply, her eyes aflame. "All I wanted was my brother, and you took him away from me! You KILLED HIM! HE'S DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU!"

I felt tears come to my eyes, but I didn't show it. Slowly, I attempted to stand. As soon as I made this move, however, she screeched and grabbed me by the hair on my head, pressing her knife against my throat.


My jaw dropped. I couldn't be sure I wasn't jumping to conclusions, but it seemed like she had just said that—

"I TOLD THEM WHERE YOU LIVED!" she continued, sobs returning through the rage. "I FOUND OUT, AND I TOLD THEM!" She dropped to her knees once more, covering her face in her hands.

"I told them…"

The full reality of what she had done sunk in to both of us. She had sold us out; she had found the Death Eaters somehow and led them to our house.

All to kill me.

"But why?" I asked, my voice cracking in anger and pain. "Why did you talk to them? 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live', remember? Why did you trust them—?"

"Because they wanted to kill you too!" she said, her red eyes staring up at mine. "All I wanted was Nick back, and you took him from me! But I couldn't be the one to kill you…it would have hurt Nick…so someone else had to do it…"

"Katie," I began, trying to calm myself down. "I loved you brother…"

"LIES!" she screamed again. In a split second, I was on the ground, and she was kneeling over me, the cold metal she held once again on my neck. "I should have killed you myself long ago, you witch! You were never any good to my brother! You always had him under a spell, and I couldn't break it! He would have been devastated if you died, but especially if I killed you, so I couldn't do it!"

We were both panting. I felt warm blood from my neck fall into the inside of my shirt, and salty tears fall into my open mouth.

She smiled wickedly, and in that instant, I could see the same evilness and desire for killing which corrupted so many people and sent them to Voldemort's side during the war. I saw a flame in her eyes that scared me so much I was convinced I would dream of it for nights to come—if I ever lived.

"But now he's not here," she whispered. "There's nothing to hold me back."

I caught my breath as she pressed the knife more firmly against my throat.

"It's your turn to die."

A/N: So, I was going to finish the scene, but it just felt so natural to stop it there. I guess you won't find out what happens 'till you REVIEW!

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