Millions of hearts aching but mines the only one
That can't come back from this
It's a slap when you expect a kiss
He hadn't slept that night.
Fred stood in his room back at the shop, staring at the book sitting on the desk as though it was the remnants of an explosion, shrapnel that had punctured his and so many other futures.
A cup of now cold coffee sat next to it; along with food he didn't have the appetite for. Nothing sounded appealing. The mere thought of eating made his mouth dry.
The pinks of sunrise were illuminating the London sky outside his window. That was what drove his eyes from that damned book. The glint of St. Paul's in the morning sun.
In a few hours the Alley would show signs of life. There would be a steady stream of parents coming to do their school shopping. Kids would run into the shop, tinkling the bell over head. He'd have Verity asking where his brother was-he'd craft an excuse if George didn't show-something about a product testing gone wrong. It would be another busy morning which would feed into a busier afternoon. Kids filling up their pockets before they went back to school. The shop would fill with laughter and sighs of relief as parents claimed a temporary sanctuary for their sanity. In that moment, that simple moment, all would be well.
But he couldn't focus on that. Not any more. Even that would just be a temporary numbing of what he knew now.
He couldn't hold on to that hopeful joy like he used to.
Instead he was stuck watching as the pinks and golds of the summer sun that seemed to chase away the shadows of night. How the rays of light became more golden and pronounced, as though they were trying to promise better days to come, trying to chase away the shadow that had swallowed them all.
There'd be better days, he was sure of that, but he wouldn't live to see them.
He wouldn't live to see another July.
When he first started reading the book, it didn't make any sense.
He had expected to read Hermione's perfect handwriting detailing the gift of this book from a dashing red head who she fancied, maybe she'd have a heart hidden somewhere in there. He knew her better than to expect to find a Hermione Weasley written in a corner. At the very least he thought he'd find a summary of what happened in the Department of Mysteries or earlier summer-a note of why she needed this book to keep her secrets. Maybe an explanation of why she had been so out of character. Maybe a scandalous dream of the two of them in Mallorca. Maybe more scandalous dreams she had during the school years.
There wasn't a note, and it became apparent from the first page this was no normal diary.
But it did provide an explanation.
It started with a timeline.
A really rough one that started in June 1996. Her handwriting wasn't perfect or detailed, but you could tell she had written it quickly, as though she half expected to forget it. June listed Dept. of Mysteries and Umbridge being sacked. A note above it, added later had written "No Locket"-whatever that meant.
He scanned through the rest of 1996 and it was similar but she had left out what he thought was important details, or at least what had been important details to him. Next to the Slug Club Christmas party she had written Cormac Mclaggen with an annotation Go Stag written above that. There was no mention of him when Katie was attacked in Hogsmeade, and a stay at castle written for Christmas Holiday-that was another thing that wasn't right-she had gone with her parents to Newcastle. She had nearly died at Newcastle. That's when she had done the charm and sent her parents away.
The next page made less sense. It was a detailed timeline of 1997. Again, he tried not to be caught off guard when he saw his name absent from "Apparition Test." According to this timeline, Ron and Lavender had broken up when he had been poisoned, not in the months after. Malfoy was attacked-that wasn't right either, Malfoy had attacked Harry, he had remembered Ginny telling him, Dumbledore's Death and something about some bloke named Felix. Fred felt his heart had sunk when there was no note about their trips to his tower, his surprise dinner for her at the start of the summer, the Wallet Scheme or Mallorca. That perhaps it had not meant as much to her. That maybe she didn't feel the same-
But his lungs seemed to empty, blood pounding in his head as he read her notes for the end of July 1997-for tonight. That was impossible. He had possession of the book all afternoon. There was no way for her to have made this entry. And it wasn't completely right either-it only listed George's injury and Mad Eye's death. There was no mention of Dung-he knew Hermione didn't care for him, but she would have at least noted that he had died.
Don't do it, a voice in his head begged. It had sounded like her. He had thought he had seen her there in the corner of his eye, knowing she wouldn't want him to keep going. A mirage begging him to stop, to put the book away and forget about it entirely.
He Kept Going.
There were entries though for the rest of the month. Transforming the ghoul to look like Ron. The Minister reading Dumbledore's will on Harry's Birthday.
The future entries stretched further, cascading into August. Bill and Fleur's wedding had a dread ampersand with "Ministry Falls" and "Death Eaters", the scratchy handwriting of "Disappear, London. Escape Death Eaters at Coffee Shop" delivering a final blow.
He flipped though, turning pages where he discovered 1998 had more details-Locket destroyed, Escape from Lovegoods. Potterwatch-a hastily written note about the Malfoy Manor-
Fred had skipped this at first, flipping forward for something that made sense. Something that was like a teenage girl diary entry where she wrote about him, not Death Eaters. Battle of Hogwarts was written in May. A single tack mark for "Funerals" proceeded one in June telling of Ron, Harry going to Australia of all places. He flipped to the end of the timeline where it was January 1999, and Hermione had gone skiing. Avalanche, she had written, Time Turner on during accident. Wake up in June 1996.
As he dug further in the book, he noticed she fleshed out details that had been mentioned in the timelines. Some of these she had written "Fixed Point" with a question mark, as though she had made a casual note for further study. There were calendar dates that made him think perhaps she was using it as a planner but something wasn't adding up right. They jumped around. There were pages where she had made a column of two events. One labeled "First time" the other "This Time" Sometimes the events matched, but other times they were different, by one detail or perhaps all together…
And a lot of those new events had something to do with him. All of them it seemed. His Hogsmeade trips, Slughorn's Party. A note about Ron's poisoning. It didn't make any sense at first, not until he flipped farther into the book. Not until he reached dates that hadn't happened yet.
Hermione and the boys leaving Fleur and Bill's wedding-Death Eaters scribbled into the margins. She had written a to do list of what she needed to do before that-repack the bags, make sure the ghoul was taken care of-his stomach turned when he saw the last thing-Say goodbye to FW.
The word Horcruxes was also written down throughout her September entries. He wasn't sure what that was, but it looked French, he'd have to ask Fleur about it later. A horcrux that had something about a necklace, the locket he supposed from an early note. He noticed how Ron wasn't mentioned after October, after her note about Ted Tonks, Dean and another name he couldn't make out quite yet.
It hadn't made sense and he wished he hadn't put it together. He wished he had her bloody time turner to go back to hours ago and snatch the book from his own inquisitive hands. Because things clicked when he reached the end. The last pages. The ones she had scribbled all over.
It was dated 2 May. The word "Lost" had been crossed out and replaced with the words "To Save" written in a sloppy, hasty hand, the quill having been pushed down as though she could stab them back to life.
He knew the names. He knew all of them, some in passing. Some intimately. It's what made his stomach heavy as though someone had poured hot iron in it. Names of the lost and those they left behind. Remus and Tonks. The Creevey Boy. Lavender Brown. Nigel Abramson-the list grew longer and he waited, waiting to find the other name. The one that should've been written next to his own if this was true-
He supposed it was a relief. He supposed he should be glad George wasn't on it. That meant that George survived. His brother would live to see the end of the war.
Then he started reading the book all over again and remembered his theory at the Burrow. He was certain of it now. More of this theory than any he had had before.
Hermione had time traveled.
She had come from the post war in an accident. The skiing trip she had been raving about when he came to visit her after the Ministry. He flipped to January 1997 and saw she had noted Fred gave me Time Turner today- But that was different than her timeline in the front of the book-she had found a Time Turner from him in her purse in August of 1998, before she went back to school-
She knew what was going to happen. She knew every last detail. She knew who was going to live, and she knew who was supposed to die.
And she hadn't done a damn thing.
Why had he made her that bracelet? Her timeline had no reference to their relationship other then this charm he had given her. Did that mean she had traveled from a time where they were not together and in love? Had she chosen Ron and left Fred to pine from a far in the last few months of his life? Had he died without tell her?
Who did that? He thought, a hot, stirring anger tossing his stomach, Who honestly travels in time and falls in love with a man condemned to die?
Fred found himself in his own avalanche. One of questions and rushed conclusions, none better than the other. All of them making him more and more frustrated with Hermione.
Had she chosen Ron? He thought again. Had Hermione ever loved him? Or had this year simply been a year of pity and regret of what had never been and would never be? Was this her thought of a last gift and she had been so insistent on keeping their relationship quite so she could reconcile with Ron once he was gone?
She never loved you, The blood was pounding in his head as salty tears welled in his eyes. She was too smart to fall in love with a dead man. This had been a magically, one sided love affair. Her affair with a ghost. Her attempt to give him the best year of his life because it was meant to be his last. And then she would go on with her life without him.
If she knew all of this was going to happen-why hadn't she done anything to stop it? He thought, anger replacing his own sorrows. Katie had been attacked on both timelines. Ron had been poisoned. Her interference-whatever it had been-had led to Harry being attacked, not Malfoy and George had still lost an ear. Mad Eye and Dung were dead. Dumbledore was still dead-she could of saved Dumbledore and she hadn't-
Fred reached for the coffee cup and threw it against the wall, shattering it and sending its contents everywhere. He reached for the book and chucked it as hard as he could against the mirror before collapsing on his floor and surrendering to the storm of demons inside his soul.
When Ginny woke up the next morning, she woke with a start.
Quickly she looked around the room. Hermione laid in the bed next to her, her dark silhouette breathing. It was just a nightmare, she told herself, just a horrible nightmare.
She knew she wasn't the only one in the house that had nightmares. Hermione, despite her tight upper lip when she was awake had been tossing and turning every summer since they had gone to the Department of Mysteries in Ginny's fourth year. Harry-she knew from Hermione- had been experiencing them since the Triwizard Tournament. Even Ron had the occasional flashback to the brains incident that created a serenade of his and ghouls moans coming from the attic.
She might not always have been in the thick of things, but she hadn't been on the sidelines either. She had been the first one in the Hospital Wing after Malfoy had attempted to murder Harry. She hadn't ever seen so much blood in her life, or seen Harry so helpless. Blood as crimson against the snow of his skin. She had been the first one to get to Bill the night Greyback attacked and at first had thought someone had centralized the same curse Malfoy had used on Harry as Bills face seemed more blood and mangled flesh than anything else.
She knew what they were fighting for, she knew it was worth it-That had more or less been her argument to be one of the fake Harry's but her mother had shot that down no sooner than she had proposed the idea.
Ginny tried to focus on her surroundings. There was a soft glow of sunrise outside her window-the sun hadn't crossed the top of the hill yet. Hermione was still asleep in the bed next to her.
Hermione was alive. She was alive. It was safe to assume that everyone who had fallen asleep in the house when she had gone to bed last night was also alive.
That wasn't completely true.
They had all lost Mad-Eye. She didn't know him as well as Remus or her father had, but she knew they had been dealt a big blow in his death. With Dumbledore's death, her father supposed Mad-Eye would take over the leadership of the Order. He had been a leading Auror for over thirty-five years. He had the best idea of what they were facing and now that Dumbledore had fallen, who better than him to take charge?
Now that he's gone, who will lead us?
Harry was her first thought. Ever after Dumbledore died, Harry was the one she was ready to follow into the midst of things. But then Ron had come home with the ludicrous argument that he, Harry and Hermione would not be returning to Hogwarts. Not because they were going to be taking on leadership roles for the Order. Its because Dumbledore had supposedly left them some task. Something that only Harry could do.
And naturally, Ginny thought sarcastically, that meant something only Harry could do with the help of Ron and Hermione.
Her heart was still racing, She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. There wouldn't be any hope going back to bed now. If anything, she could sneak downstairs to get a drink before her mother emerged with a list of wedding tasks that needed to get done.
When Ginny walked down to the first floor she knew she wasn't alone in her efforts for a few moments of peace. The rich smell of coffee permeated the room, enveloping her with a sense of calm she hadn't had in a long time-at least not since she and Harry were together. Opening the door she smiled as she saw the well bandaged head of her brother as he poured a second mug for her.
"You're right, you are saintlike," Ginny said as she strode around the corner. George turned quickly and looked at her, surprised to see her there.
"Can I take this?" she asked lifting the mug and reaching for the saucer.
"Course you can," George recovered, scooting over to make room for her next to the counter. " I thought you were Hermione for a minute, we might have to make another pot. I ought to warn you though, Fred says I'm rubbish at coffee."
Ginny took a sip and cringed. She reached for the sugar and dropped a good scoop in it before doubling it with cream. "Why'd you think Hermione would be down first?" she asked, arching her eyebrow as she stare downed her brother down.
"Because that girl hasn't taken a rest since she started school," he said, rolling his eyes "The moment she came close to it Umbridge came to Hogwarts and she's had to deal with a risen Dark Lord since then-girl operates on this stuff."
"Right," Ginny answered unconvinced. "Sure she wasn't coming to talk to you and Fred?"
"Well, as the two of them broke up a few weeks ago, I highly doubt that." George said simply, scooping sugar into his cup as well. "And, seeing as Fred decided to take off in the night, even if she did try to do that she'd be very disappointed."
Ginny spat out what coffee she had drunk."Wait what-"
"I mean it makes sense, someone's going to have to be at the shop and spread a cover story, I can't blame him for that, would've liked a little more heads up but that's neither here nor there-"
"No that last bit," Ginny interrupted, "They broke up? But-" she looked from her miserable cup of coffee to her brother, "But why? She as over the moon for him-And if anyone was paying attention they could have told you he was fond of her-"
George had a shadow that was cast on his face now, as though he was trying to find the right words. Ginny knew this face. It was one all the Weasley children had at one point or another, usually when they were trying to decide what they were going to say to their mother.
Percy was the best at holding his tongue, he could usually hide his face the best.
The twins, who always seemed be tottering on their mother's nerves, had the worst.
"All Fred said is that he couldn't be in a relationship with someone who wasn't there," George answered carefully.
"That's rubbish and you know it," Ginny countered, her voice and temper rising "They were corresponding to each other when he wasn't at the school-"
"She's not going to be at the school though Gin," George said softly, "I think Freddie's really struggling with the fact that his girlfriend-his strong, brilliant, take no prisoners girlfriend-is going to be running off the grid while there's lunatics trying to kill her. If something goes wrong, he's not going to be able to make a difference in saving her."
Ginny took her mug and through the drink down the drain, " That's no reason to break up with someone though- Even if he's not going to be right there doesn't mean-"
"It was a mutual break up Gin," George interrupted, " She was the one that instigated it. Said that if people found out about the two of them the Death Eaters could try and use Fred to get to her-because if they could get her they could probably get Harry."
"She pulled a Potter break up," Ginny moaned, her hand subconsciously pulling her hair in frustration. 'Why do they have to be so bloody noble?"
George rolled his eyes, "I don't know but I'm sick of it-they were so obnoxiously a couple this summer-and that stays between you and me."
The sun was over the hedge now, the rays sending light through the stained glass of a wind chime they had made for their mother when they were all much younger. Soon the spell of slumber-fake and real-would break and the house would fall into the bedlam of Molly Weasley's wedding tirades, but in this moment the house was still, the yard kissed with the dew while Ginny's coffee stained the sink.
"So you think when all of this is over they'll get back together?"Ginny asked hopefully.
"I think it's' a lot like you and Harry," her brother sighed, dumping his coffee down the drain. " If they get through this unscathed, I'd be genuinely surprised to see an outcome that doesn't have us jumping around getting ready for their wedding."
"Can you imagine?" Ginny smirked turning to George. "Fred would be sneaking joke products all around the house just to bother mum and Hermione'd find one and get another black eye. All while half the county is in the garden waiting for it to get started."
"I don't think so," George responded, looking out to the garden as though he could already see the scene. "After all Hermione's had to go through I bet it'd be small. Church or register's office. Her parents and ours. Maybe the favorite's of Fred's siblings. If she's feeling really influential maybe she'll get Percy off his high horse and back in the fold."
"She's a witch not a miracle worker," Ginny snorted, her arm playfully bashing into her brothers, a sad smile playing on her lips. "You know, I used to think maybe Dung had given Percy something that ended up being a cursed object. That was an easier lie to swallow than him just up and abandoning us."
George looked down and gave a sympathetic grin to his sister. "After meeting old Toadface I thought maybe she had slipped something in his tea to make him that vile," he sighed, "But I think Percy made his choices in his own free mind. 'Sides, if Dung had a cursed object that powerful fate would probably give it to Umbridge."
She nodded then looked down focusing on the coffee stains. "Do you know-if they found Dung or Mad-Eye's body last night?"
George looked towards the stairs before quietly answering, "They didn't find Mad Eye-but they found what was a severed arm. It had Dung's watch on it-"
Her hands flew to her mouth, "Stop it now or Mum will have my other ear for telling you," he quipped. "Bill thought it looked like it had been splinched right off while Remus thinks Snape kept blasting his ear-removal spell in every direction. They buried it over the hedge a ways, far enough that the Gnomes won't find it and chase guests during the wedding."
She gave her brother a good whack for that and was have way to telling him off when another voice entered the room, "Why are you attacking George?" Hermione asked. Ginny looked her over and she realized that she must had had just as restful a night as the rest of the house. Her hair was spread out in its morning mane and the dark circles under her eyes seemed to be more than just mascara she hadn't taken off the night before.
"Have you ever drank George's coffee?" Ginny asked, changing the subject. She didn't need to know about Dung. Wasn't the kind of news you wanted to hear first thing in the morning.
Hermione smiled and shook her head, "I was warned to stay away from any of George's drinks-especially the coffee," she said putting the kettle back on the stove before fetching two cups and tea leaves. Ginny meant to ask "who told you " when George pinched her arm and said aloud, "Just you wait till Tom gets back to me about being a spare barman at the Leaky Cauldron. Then you'll both rue the day."
"I'm already rueing a day and it's this one," Hermione interrupted, leaning against the counter while the kettle boiled, "Your mum is going to have a wedding fit and we still need to do a bit of transfiguration on the Ghoul in the attic. How's the Skiving Snack coming along?"
"Just as well as it was yesterday, I think Fred headed back to take care of the finishing touches," George answered.
"Fred's already left?" Hermione asked, looking surprised at the news. Ginny couldn't help but notice as her friend looked at the two tea cups with disappointment. "Don't worry Hermione, after the concoction George had be drink I could do with a proper cup, I'll make a batch for three then?"
George mocked wounded pride and started praddling about something or other, Something about the store and some products they were working on for the fall. If she didn't know better, and if George hadn't just told her they had broken up, Ginny would have bet her wand that Hermione had expected to have a morning tea rendezvous with Fred before the rest of the house woke up.
After all, maybe that's what amicable, broken up couples did.
Or at the very least, couples who were faking a break up.
The sun was starting to set in the horizon, rays of light still flickering down from the sky lamp of the Burrow's Attic. The air was musty, the smell of the oak wood beams in the evening sun seemed to transport her for the slightest moment back to her home in Essex and those happy afternoons when she waited for Fred to come home.
Well, with the exclusion of essence du Ghoul coming from the loft above.
Today had been draining. Molly had waltzed into the kitchen the minute their tea was ready. She was already riled up like a hurricane, moving through the kitchen with a force her memory hadn't captured. George seemed to recognize the glint in her eyes because after she helped changed his bandages he went back to his room "to rest" a while before going back to the store. George wasn't even halfway up the stairs when Ginny was given her task of decluttering the downstairs of the house while Hermione was to put fresh linens out for Mr and Mrs Delacour.
"But what about the boys?" Ginny asked annoyed as her mum started handing her wellington boots and a rusted cauldron kept by the door.
"As soon as they're up and fed they'll be cleaning the chicken coup and working on degnoming the garden," Mrs Weasley said as a matter of fact.
"But what about George? He-"
"He had a tragic accident and his equilibrium is still off," Mrs Weasley fumed, standing up straight as she tapped the sink with her wand and the dishes started moving about, "Quite frankly I think the gnomes could throw George over the hedge if he wasn't careful."
Ginny had rolled her eyes and Hermione offered a weak smile. Mrs Weasley had been protective of George last time too. And after the Battle of Hogwarts even more fiercely so-
Don't think of that, don't you dare, she told herself now as she sat in the attic, waiting for the boys to come up and meet her. She knew she could save Fred this time. She knew he was going to make it, but she had also intended to have Mad Eye and Dung make it back to the Burrow too last night.
She didn't know what had gone wrong with her hats. She supposed that somehow when the twins had made their modifications it had compromised the charm Hermione had placed on the hat that would have made it virtually impossible for Dung to apparate and leave Mad Eye alone. It was flawed logic, but she had supposed that if Dung was unable to disappear, Mad Eye wouldn't be betrayed.
But if it was right what she had heard from Ginny and George, that charm was what killed them both. Dung was unable to apparate, and the Death Eaters killed one of the seven pairs.
That had been what she had grappled with when everyone else had lied asleep. She hadn't passed out until three or so. It was one thing that she had contributed to Mad Eye's death, but Dung's death would leave so many more consequences. He had, unknowingly to him, been the key that pointed them in the right direction of finding the locket.
Hermione wondered how Dung's early exit could affect the war. He was by no means a hero in her eyes; she had always seen him as a scallywag, and not the redeemable, loveable kind. But he had a hidden talent when it came to disguises and had been able to lurk in the shadows and find out bits of information that he'd peddle back to the remnants of the Order. There was a rumor, she didn't know how much she would believe, that Dung had found out about Luna's kidnapping. He hadn't been able to do anything to stop it-nor would he have, Hermione was certain, if he could-but the Order knew ten minutes before Xenophilius did that Luna would not be home for Christmas.
George had told her that Dung was the one who would take the names read at Potterwatch of the missing and see if he could find anything out about them to those who had resorted to squatting in Diagon Alley. Even if he couldn't find the people, he would take messages that would later be read out over the air, desperate pleas from parents looking for children that hadn't made it back from school.
He was no saint, but he hadn't deserved to die. And because he had, Hermione was going to have to come up with a way to make it right.
Did Umbridge have the locket now? Hermione wondered, thinking of Dung's greatest secret contribution to the war, Or was it still at the house?
It would be all too easy if they just strolled into Grimmauld Place and found the locket with Kreature, but Hermione knew "easy" wasn't a word to describe their luck. She was half convinced that the locket had gone to Umbridge sometime in the last year, around the same time as the Black Family Goblets.
So if Umbridge has the locket, how will you convince Ron and Harry she has it? It would be a fool harty suicide run. They had thought that even with the knowledge it was in her possession. The boys would think she had finally lost it if she came up with some half baked guess they should look in the Ministry of Magic in the weeks following a magical coup.
Two knocks sounded from the floor beside her and Harry and Ron made their way up. Ron took a breath and pulled up the front of his shirt to mask his nose and mouth. "Honestly Hermione, do we have to meet up here? The smell is awful."
"You're mother's done everything in her power to make sure we haven't been able to talk today," Hermione said bluntly, scooting over from her spot on the floor to make room for them " She cornered me when I was putting clothes on the line-wanted to know if I was under the imperius curse because the Hermione Granger she knew would sooner eat her hat than drop out of Hogwarts."
Ron winced and took a spot next to her as Harry joined him, "Sorry, I should have warned you two about that-Mum's less that pleased with our-er-decision to drop out."
"When did you tell her?" Harry asked, looking uncomfortable as she did so.
"Not too long after term ended," Ron shrugged, "She wanted to know what I'd like for my seventh year-you know, it's just Ginny and I and she figured perhaps I could get a new quill set or something like that. Then I told her to get it for Ginny instead because we had something else going on this fall."
"That's what you told her? You had something else going on this fall? More important than school?" Hermione asked incredulously, "What were you thinking Ron?"
"Well we hadn't come up with a cover story," he huffed with suppressed annoyance. "I panicked. Didn't know what to tell her. So I finally said, Dumbledore left a task for Harry and you and I needed to go with him."
Harry put his head in his hands while Hermione sighed, "I told her the same, more or less. I didn't think it possible to be your mum's least favorite now that Fleur is joining the family but I figure we're all just above Percy at the moment."
"Don't say his name, she'll just start crying," Ron said, rolling his eyes, "Honestly, she's been a little bit more teary since Bill's accident, but this wedding has her emotions out of balance. Add in George's ear and throw Percy in the mix and all hell will break loose."
"Well I suppose that's a good thing,' Hermione shrugged, "If she can turn her emotions on the dime people won't doubt when she reacts to the news you have Spattergroit. Even if your mum doesn't like the idea she'll at least make it convincing."
"Why do I have to have spatter-whatever again?" Ron asked.
"It'll look suspicious if all three of us mysteriously miss the train," Harry answered, "Where are you supposed to be again Hermione?"
"I bought a ticket this summer and made it look like I flew to America to attend Ilvermorny," she replied. A Ticket to Ilvermorny, one to Prague-a ticket to Argentina- You and Fred covered your tracks perfectly.
"Right, you disappear with the muggleborns, Harry disappears because he's Harry-why do I have to have the chills?" Ron persisted, "I remember that barmy bloke at St Mungo's said I had to be treated with eel eyes under a full moon."
"Seeing as you're going to be with us, you don't have to worry about that," Hermione smiled bumping her knee playfully against his own, "We just need a convincing lie to cover our tracks. The Twins will give you a Spattergroit Symptom Skiving Snack, one of them will lead you back to the house were the ghoul will come down and after a pepper up potion and a polyjuice to cover up no one will know the better."
Ron was giving her that look again, the one where he was blindly believing whatever she was saying just because she had been the one to say it. She leaned her knees away and looked over to Harry, "The twins will bring Ron over to you and I'll meet you both by Mr Weasley's shed. We'll sneak away when everyone else goes to see Bill and Fleur off."
"What if we have to leave early?" Harry asked, leaning against the wall. "It's a good plan but what if something happens and we have to pull the plug quick?"
Hermione looked at him and for a moment, and then looked back at Ron, " Just make sure you take that Skiving snack so people notice you've gone ill. The twins will take care of it from there and we can get away."
"Can we get a way?" Ron asked, gagging as he did, "This smell is killing me. I'm having flashbacks to Crabbe and Goyle's polyjuice potion."
"Probably just as well, it's nearly sun down. Dinner nearly ready," Harry said, a slight smile pulling at his lips and Hermione knew why. Dinners was where it was still ok for him and Ginny to be together-even if it meant together with all her brothers.
The Three made their way down the stairs. Harry held her back as Ron went on to help Mr Weasley carve the chickens Mrs Weasley had cooked.
"Noticed you're calling them the twins now," he said quietly under his breath. "Ginny told me about you and Fred. I'm sorry Hermione-really,"
"It's fine" she said, keeping her mouth in a thin line, her suffering smile. At least that's what Harry would call it. It was the same smile she had when he returned without any fish, or when Ron didn't care for his supper.
"It's really not though," he continued, putting his hand on her shoulder. "You know, I'm the Chosen One. If you want, I can take him out for you."
Her face split into a smile and she playfully shoved him away. He laughed too and they made their way into the kitchen. She couldn't wait to tell Fred Harry had threatened to take care of him. He would get a laugh out of that.
But when she entered the garden where Mrs Weasley had moved the tables she only saw George sitting there.
The seat next to him vacant.
Fred didn't come back after dinner. Not that first night. Or the Next.
"There's something going on at the shop tonight," George shrugged, his eyes darting back to the table spread behind her. "Said he had to wait for Justin to pick up the load. Was going to try and sneak back if it didn't go too late."
When he didn't come back for Harry's birthday, Hermione knew something was wrong. Fred Weasley was many things, but he wasn't the kind of man who would avoid his family and those he cared about. In the year she had known him, she had never known him to do something like this. When there had been even the slightest chance they could see each other, he did his best to be there.
Before George left, Hermione gave him a small purple box with orange wrappings. It was supposed to be a good luck gift for him, something to make him feel better when they were on the run.
"Oi, its Harry's birthday, not ours-" George said as Hermione gave him the box, "He doesn't need anything."
"I wanted to give it to him before we left, and it'd be awkward trying to give it to him tomorrow at a wedding when we're supposed to be disconnected," she tried to explain, forcing it in his hands "He'll know what it is and what's it for. Just give it to him when you think he's missing me the most."
George took it and put it in his shirt pocket, still looking uncomfortable of his service as her owl. "Is he doing ok?" Hermione asked, weighing the words against their silence.
"He's ill I think," George answered quietly, his eyes darting away from hers, "Don't know what he's picked up, just told me he's not feeling like himself and he didn't want it to spread before the wedding. He'll be fine in no time," he had promised, putting his arm around hers and squeezing her close before she went to bed.
It didn't reassure her much. If anything, it made her feel certain something was horribly wrong.
Ginny was fast asleep when Hermione heard the tapping on the window.
Maybe it's an owl….a letter for Ginny, Hermione thought sitting up and crossing the room to peak out the curtain.
There wasn't an owl waiting for her. Instead, his hair glowing like a flame under a ball of light he had set floating above him, looking up to her with his face in shadow she could make the outline of two ears.
"What are you doing?" Hermione asked, trying to hide the surprise in her voice as she leaned out of the window.
"Tossing pebbles at the window, I saw it in a muggle movie we watched this summer."
She rolled her eyes, not that he could see them. "That was a radio, remember?"
"Yeah but you said sometimes people throw gravel," he shrugged, "Besides,this way I only ran the risk of waking up Ginny. If I have the Weird Sisters playing at two in the morning we'll have the entire house up and me in a body bind for sure."
Something shifted behind Hermione and she turned around quick to see Ginny had rolled over and stollen her blankets. Lucky, she thought to herself turning back to Fred you might not be as lucky second time around.
"What do you want at two in the morning?" she asked, leaning further out of the window, "George said you were sick?"
"I wanted to talk to you," he called from the ground, "Figure we could do a walk to the pond and back? It's still in the wards, you wouldn't be in danger."
"Oh I'm with you Fred, that's a always a danger," she smiled. She should have known something was off. His laugh sounded different. Almost forced.
You're tired Hermione, she told herself. You're tired and you're overthinking it. It was 2 in the morning after all. Maybe you heard his inflection wrong. He could be on medicine or something.
"I'll be right down," she smiled, closing the window and pulling back the curtain and quietly maneuvering down the stairs. She thought she had triggered the ghoul on the second to last step but the clock chimed and she made her way to the back door, grabbing a shawl from the hook as she made her escape.
He looked better on the ground than when she was a floor up. Shadows of exhaustion circled around his eyes, but otherwise he didn't seem too bad off. Maybe he had tested an expiring Skiving Snack or something like that. He had told her to always check the dates when she helped him in the back room, maybe he had been less than diligent. She walked right up and embraced him, nearly knocking him over as though he hadn't expected that.
Slowly his arms found their way around her and he pressed his lips on the top of her head. "Longest I've gone without a Fred Weasley kiss for a while" she muttered against his shoulder, "I'm glad you're alright George had me worried."
"Paint a picture of me on my deathbed?" Fred asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No, but he told me you were sick, and told Ginny you were busy-when George starts lying for you I start to worry."
"He's never been much of a liar," Fred smirked, shaking his head as they started walking, "Especially when it comes to the women in his life. Absolute rubbish. Wouldn't cut it as a spy. Angelina just has to raise an eyebrow and he sings like a Phoenix."
They continued on the path that weaved through the back field behind the Burrow towards the little pond the children had learned to swim in. It had a little dock, made in part by Mr Weasley's muggle carpentry and sustained with Mrs Weasley's wand work. The night was pleasant and Hermione had thought the stars hadn't shone this bright in a long while.
"Why was George lying?" Hermione asked, her nerves persisting. The had just sat side by side on the dock. "Where have you been the last few days-I thought about sneaking off to check on you after dinner but the Minister showed up and dragged on the evening."
"Oh George told me old Rufus popped in, did he bring Percy?"
"No," she mumbled lowly, " No it was just the Minister. They released Dumbledore's Will."
"Harry inherit Hogwarts?" he asked, turning towards her with a raised eyebrow.
"No, but he was supposed to get Gryffindor's sword," she sighed, leaning back on her hands. "Ron got a light-putter outer Dumbledore had made, he's trying to come up with a better name than that-"
"Dumbledore left Ron something?" Fred asked perplexed, a hint of irritation in his voice. As though Ron always received prizes-it was not characteristic of Fred to be like this, but again medicine and irritation had probably triggered the jealous brother switch. " Yes, he left something for all three of us," Hermione finished, " I got an old book by Beedle the Bard."
He looked over at her, "Sorry about that, not near as exciting as Gryffindor's Sword or a Dumbledore original." She did a mock punch to his arm and rolled her eyes, "He must have known I hadn't read it yet."
"Mhmm," he sounded, leaning back and looking across the pond.
"Fred," she started, breaking the silence that followed, asking one last time "Why did George lie?"
He turned to her and she did the same, sitting at his side. "George lied because I told him too," Fred said simply, " Justin was coming by to pick up the first load of Wandering Wallets and I wanted to make sure he got them and got a way with them. He's was going to try and take the first group over this weekend but I told him to get them out of here by tomorrow night."
She nearly gave herself whiplash turning to look at him, "Why so soon? And he's going with them?"
" The sooner the better. I don't like the idea of the wallets sitting around somewhere they could get lost. Besides, you know how important this is. And if you and the boys are acting with a sense of urgency, why shouldn't they?"
"Is Beauxbatons ready for them though? I didn't think we had heard back from Madam Maxine?" she asked, looking at the stars reflected in the pool.
"Old classmate of Charlie's is going to take them in for now. She lives across the Channel. Penny Hay-something or other."
"Can we trust her-what if-"
"Charlie vouched for her," he said, cutting her off with finality. "Said she and her sister Beatrice could be trusted, had faced Dark Magic when they were at school, aren't too keen to see it come back. She was studying potions in Paris and never left. Charlie mentioned they needed a safe house and she was happy to help until Madam Maxine was ready for us."
Hermione nodded and leaned her head against his arm. He seemed to stiffen at her touch but she thought perhaps it was the breeze that raddled the leaves, or maybe yet a chill. "I wish we were back in our safe house," she muttered, more to herself than to him. She closed her eyes just to savor the memory of the last time the two of them sat side by side on a dock.
"Who do you think we should get out next, once the muggleborn kids are gone?" Fred asked, calling her out of those memories. She opened her eyes and lifted her head, looking back at him slightly surprised.
"I mean we could go ahead and get out people we know-Dad's worked with some muggleborns at the Ministry, it'd be good to get them out. Or maybe we should go with Order friends and family members. Ted!" Fred said, his words running quickly and louder with each syllable, "We could get Ted and Andromeda out, what do you think? Whisk them away to safety. Maybe they could claim sanctuary at our little cottage by the sea in Mallorca."
He looked like there was a touch of madness in his eyes; as though this had a point, but one she might not appreciate.
"I suppose-yes, of course. We could get Ted out-"
"And if he's gone, Andromeda will go with him, and we I'm sure Lupin would want Tonks to be safe so all four of them are whisked out of the picture."
Those are three people on the list- she thought. She tried to keep her emotions close and discreet. He had done this before, predicting the future. She'd just go along with it and he wouldn't know the better. Besides, in what world would Remus abandon the war? "That's true-I think that's a good idea-"
"Or perhaps we should keep some wallets on standby in case purebloods who are loyal to Dumbledore and the order get in hot water," Fred said rapidly. "Death Eaters take over it's only a matter of time before ol' Xeno runs into trouble right Potter Propaganda. If Luna has a passport on her she could probably sneak out of the school and do her own hunt for the Snorkel Whatsit while the war goes on."
That's something too far fetched to guess.
"Fred what's wrong with you?" Hermione asked, a chill beyond the wind settling in her bones,"Are you not well? What are you doing?"
"I'm doing something damn it," he said standing up and fidgeting with the bag that had been draping on his shoulder. He rummaged through and finally pulled out a familiar leather bound book.
"Tell me it's not true," Fred said his voice a mixture of anger and grief a he shook the book at her She had heard George speak with that voice a long time ago, almost those exact words. Usually when he woke up from a nightmare in the first weeks after Fred had died.
But now it was Fred's turn.
Her eyes zeroed in on it and she had to steady herself before she got to her feet.
She hadn't realized it was missing-she thought it was stuck at the bottom of her bag.
"Tell me Hermione," he said, his eyes a darker brown in the moonlight that sent shadows across his face, masked with anger, "Tell me none of this is true. Tell me that it was a writing assignment you gave yourself. Tell me you didn't know George was going to lose an ear or Katie nearly die-Tell me I don't die."
"What have you done?" her voice was stronger than she expected. She was angry he had read her book. That he had broken that trust, but that wasn't what was important in that moment. She needed to talk him down. She recognized that madness in his eyes. It was the reckless Fred, the one who had nearly stormed into Diagons Alley to fight Death Eaters and would have unless George had stopped him.
"What have I done?" he responded, his words having a sharpness to them she had never heard before. "You've known what the war was going to be like for over a year and you've done nothing. Don't get angry about what I've done the last few days after learning the same."
"Fred-listen, there was an accident, I was skiing with my parents-remember, I told you this when you came to visit me last year in the Hospital Wing."
"The visit where you only realized it was me by the fact I have two ears you mean," He snapped, "Merlin Hermione, how could you do this to George? You sat by and did nothing as his ear disappeared!"
"It wouldn't have if someone hadn't removed the flaps now would it have?" she barked with her own righteous anger. "Not everything turned out the way I wanted it to alright-I forgot certain things-I meant to save Katie and George-"
"You thought you could play God didn't you?" he glowered, " Who gets to live, who gets to die, whose bloody story you get to continue on. That's why you didn't save Dung isn't it? Take out one of the shaddier-"
"Dung didn't die last time!" she snarled, interrupting him. " Bloody Hell Fred don't you get it? Time isn't something that you can copy exactly. It's not an exact science. It's fluid-its like this pond I throw a rock in there's going to be ripples-"
"So the hats were a rock and it took out Dung is it?" he looked at the still pond for a moment, "So you fall through time. You know how it's going to end. Why the hell are we walking into this so poorly prepared then," he asked irritation lingering in his voice, "People are disappearing. Dumbledore's dead-" he paused and Hermione knew his next attack before he launched it at her.
"I told Dumbledore he was going to die," Hermione said flatly, trying to set a quieter tone. "He knew Malfoy was trying to kill him before I told him last fall. But he knew what would happen if we stopped Malfoy from disarming him on the tower that night- he decided it was too much to risk-he made the necessary arrangements-"
"Why did Malfoy need to disarm Dumbledore?" Fred interrupted, his voice less angry. Still mad, but not as accusatory.
He doesn't know about the Elder Wand, she thought to herself. He had probably read about Horcruxes but he didn't have the foggiest idea what one was. If he knew about the Hollows-
Dumbledore had always kept that as a need to know. And despite the thundering of her heart and the words already on her lips, she shook her head.
"I can't tell you that Fred," she said looking down, "I'm sorry but I can't."
He looked down at his feet and nodded. And kept nodding. Until he looked up at her. His face was smooth, the hard lines from his anger had disappeared and she almost felt the danger had past.
" Can you tell me this then," he said, breaking eye contact with the pond and setting them on her. "Hermione were we together before. You and me," he said, his hand pointing from his heart to hers as if they were Jane and Tarzan. "Were we together?"
His eyes were his again. The Fred she knew. The Fred she had fallen in love with. The vulnerable Fred. The one who had surprised her multiple times in Hogsmeade and taken her to secret Towers at Hogwarts. The one who had let her cry into his shirt. The one who made her breakfast. Who asked what she was thinking. The Fred whose eyes had danced when they did in a Spanish Square.
She closed her eyes, and when she opened them those eyes of his were gone.
"We were friends," she said simply, "We always had been friends-I think there had been something more for you-after the war George always said I could've done better-"
His lips tucked into a straight line and she felt ice take hold of her insides. She should have lied. She should have said yes.
All of your carefully laid lies Hermione, a voice in her head started, where have they got you know?
"What are you thinking?" she asked, her voice higher than she had expected. She reached out for his hand but he swatted hers away. "Fred?"
"I'm thinking-I'm thinking we're done, Hermione," he said with an air of finality, "I think we're at the end."
"No-" her throat had gone dry, her mouth had seemed to lose the ability to form words. "Fred- no-please-"
"Who travels back in time to fall in love with someone whose doomed to die?" Fred asked darkly, "Not the smartest witch of her age, that's who."
"What-Fred stop it. Stop it," she took a step closer to him, her hand on his chest, " I love you. Don't you realize that? I love-"
"You never did though," he said, his brow wrinkling, his face twisted in the moonlight. "I did, I bloody loved you! It was real for me-all of it and you-" he looked at her and in the moment she could feel his raw, coursing pain carrying them both down a waterfall."That's why you never wanted to tell the family or our friends, wasn't it? Didn't want them to know you had dated Fred so you could be clear to get together with Ron once I was dead and gone."
"Stop," she sobbed, stepping towards him again, her hand on his chest, her fingers tightly wrapping themselves in his shirt. "We're better together. You've said that before, we're better together. I'm better when I'm with you."
"I'm not going to be here for long," he said flatly, "You can get a jump start at the grieving process."
When Ron had left her, it had felt as though she had been thrown into cold water. She was in shock, she hadn't expected it. She had floundered around in her thoughts those first moments after he left.
But now, it felt as though all the air had been taken from her. Her limbs didn't feel heavy because she couldn't feel them. All she could feel was the confusion, hurt and anger swirled like a cocktail and put where her heart was supposed to be, ripping through her with each breath.
He gently took her hands and lowered them to her side. He reached for the shawl she had brought from the Burrow and tucked it around her shoulders. He took the book and put it in her hands.
She met his eyes and had it been a half hour ago, she thought perhaps he was going to kiss her. Hold her trembling form close, make her stop shaking. Perhaps this was all simply a bad dream.
He reached out and tucked back a stray curl; just like had all those other times.
Maybe you can fix it. Maybe you can explain this to him-maybe he'll understand if you tell him everything, together you can do this "Fred-"
Her words broke the spell, his hand drawing away he straightened up and stepped away, his voice breaking as he said "Goodbye Granger-"
And with a sudden pop, he was gone, leaving her alone, standing on the dock in the summer moonlight.
Over the past three years I have known this scene would be written. When I first started plotting out the story I knew Fred had to find the book-
and now that I've written it I feel awful. more so because I wrote the scene and promptly left for a wedding reception...
Next Chapter is Bill and Fleur's wedding with a twist. In preview: George, who is already flabbergasted at Fred's lack of attendance at the Burrow, is going to be equally troubled when his brother tells him that things with Hermione are over, forever. Fred is going to go through the entire wedding day wondering what could have been and trying to decide what he's going to do now that he knows what is going to happen and how it should end.
I know I wrote a lot, but please let me know your thoughts!
Till next time,
((Song Credit and the beginnng: Verve Pipe Crash Landing))