Fred wakes up one week, six days, fourteen hours, and twenty-eight minutes after the Battle.

The small white hospital room is occupied only by himself and George, who is sleeping fitfully in a plastic chair when Fred awakes. When Fred says his name, albeit weakly, George jolts awake and begins sobbing and yelling incoherently.

But Fred definitely hears, "Hermione is going to be bloody pissed off that she missed this!"

As it turns out, Hermione had been in the hospital for nine days herself, but since being discharged, she's been in Fred's room nearly as much as George has. The reason for her absence now? She'd been sent out to get lunch for herself, George, and Molly.

Fred has several broken ribs, an incredibly nasty bruise on his left side, and gashes on his left arm. George informs him, slowly, that they've lost Percy, Remus, Tonks, Snape, and more. That Harry has lost the vision in his right eye and is slowly regaining the use of his right arm. That Ron has a burn on his neck that nearly paralyzed him and a large gash on his cheek.

"And Hermione?" Fred croaks. "How is she? Is she okay?"

At that precise moment, the door slams open and Hermione rushes in, tossing a paper bag at George and pouncing on Fred, kissing his eyes, his nose, his cheeks, his forehead, his mouth.

"Fred," she says through her tears, over and over again, "Fred, Fred, Fred, Fred…" As if it as natural as breathing.

"Merlin, Hermione," George laughs, "You're going to suffocate him."

"I don't know, Georgie," Fred says, managing a goofy grin between kisses, "This would be quite the way to go."

Hermione laughs at that. Pushing her hair back, she says, "We won."

And that grin on her face is unrivaled by any other.

She has a nasty bruise on her left cheek, he notices, a bandage on her forehead, and another on her shoulder, but other than that, she seems fine. Better than fine. Radiant.

"Am I okay?" Fred asks.

"You will be." Hermione says quickly. "You'll need a lot of physical therapy to help you walk again, but you'll be fine."

"You gave us quite the scare, Freddie," George says. "We thought you were a goner, but it was, of course, your Hermione who clung to you long enough to figure out that your heart was still beating. Which reminds me…" He winks at a now sheepish looking Hermione. "Everyone knows about you two now. Bill says 'congratulations' and Charlie says 'nicely done' and Ginny says 'why the bloody hell didn't anyone tell me' and –"

"George, why don't you go find your mother and tell her Fred's awake?" Hermione interrupts, smiling gently at George.

When the door clicks softly behind his twin, Fred smirks at the witch in front of him.

"So," he says, feigning casualness, "I hear you were worried about me."

She still hasn't stopped smiling at him. "I'm really glad you're okay, Fred."

"Hermione," He says. "You still love me, don't you?"

Her expression grows soft. "Yes, Fred," she says quietly, "I do."

"Then hurry up and kiss me, woman, before I slip back into a coma!"

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Fred leans heavily on his cane, grateful that Hermione has a firm grasp on his other arm. The words, which he has been rolling around on his tongue for a (rather agonizing) few weeks now, stumble out of his mouth before he can stop them.

"I know you said you weren't sure if we could do it with the war going on, but now that it's over…"

She glances up in surprise, but smiles quickly. "Yes, Fred. I will be your girlfriend."

"I'm not asking you to be my girlfriend."

"You're not?" Confusion ripples across her features.

"To be quite frank, Hermione…" He pauses to shift himself with a grunt, "The two years I spent without you have been the worst years of my life. If you're not too scared and if you're still in love with me, I'm asking you to marry me."

She stares at him in awe, unable to form a coherent thought.

"I know I'm a right bit banged up, but it looks like George is too so you're really out of options, and I'm not that keen on watching you marry some other bloke anyway, so…"

She cuts him off by kissing him, nearly knocking him off his feet and into the grass. He wraps one arm around her waist and kisses her as fiercely as he can. He can't stop himself from smiling broadly against her lips, and she laughs.

"Convince me, Weasley."

He smirks. "I'm assuming the answer isn't a week's worth of detention?"

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

She has nightmares – of Voldemort, of Malfoy Manor, of the horrible days she spent with a demonic piece of jewelry around her neck, draining her.

She'll thrash and scream in her sleep until suddenly, the dream-like past begins to melt away because he is whispering soothingly to her. She sobs and trembles in his arms, her heart thrumming in her chest, until all she can see is his bare chest and their dimly-lit bedroom.

And then she says, usually in a whisper, "I'm so sorry. Thank you. I love you so much."

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

He has nightmares – of the Battle, of his friends and family dying, of him dying, of the horrible days he spent not knowing whether or not she was alive.

He'll shake and cry out in his sleep until suddenly, the dark images of days gone by begin to melt away because she is grasping his hands, whispering soothingly to him. He shakes and holds her close, his breath much too fast, until all he can see is her worried eyes and their dimly-lit bedroom.

And then he says, usually in a whisper, "I'm so sorry. Thank you. I love you so much."

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Their children do not fully understand. They do not know anything except for the scars scattered on their mother's arms and the cane their father needs to use if he has to walk for too long and the stories they'll hear in school about how their parents and aunts and uncles saved the world.

She tells him softly that it is better this way. That their children will never have to suffer like they did. That they won't need to know firsthand what war is like.

And they are both endlessly grateful, knowing that they almost lost each other. He knows what it is like to suffer without her at his side, and she knows what it is like to not know whether she'll still have him the next morning. Perhaps this is the reason that he clutches her hand just a little too tightly, the reason that she grasps his arm for longer than necessary.

They are no longer broken. Their scars heal because that's what bodies do. Their memories heal because that's what time does. And their hearts heal because once he has hers again and she has his again, there is no reason for pain anymore.

Yet they still ache, their hearts, but in a wonderful sort of way. The sort of way she feels when she watches him, with that small smile she gets without even noticing, and she realizes how close they came to not having this. To not having each other. The thought twists her chest unpleasantly, and she grabs onto him.

"What if it hadn't happened like this?" She asks him softly. His blue eyes bore into hers imploringly, and she continues. "What if one of us had died, or if we never forgave each other, or we - ?"

And he laughs faintly, gently, gently kissing her forehead, and he tells her, "That's the best part, I suppose. We'll never have to know."