"This is it. Are you excited?" Hermione smiled gently running her fingers through the back of Firas' hair. The boy hadn't been near excited as his sister who was presently reading through her first-year potions text with her father. The two of them discussing better ways to brew the potions therein.
Firas made a soft noise in the back of his throat and leaned further into his mother. He had tried to be excited, he truly had and up until the point where they'd come to stand before the Hogwarts express he had been. Now his brow was lined with worry and fear of the unknown.
"Why can't you and Dad teach me? You're both better than anyone at that castle anyway..." He wrapped his arms around his mother's waist not wanting to be so far away.
Hermione chuckled softly and rubbed his back gently, "It'll be fine darling, they're not all bad. In fact, more than a few of them are my friends."
"Mhm. You remember Neville don't you? The man who helped your Dad get a few rare ingredients for the castle garden?" Oh, that had been a most amusing day. Hermione had refused to be the go-between, forcing Severus to actually swallow his pride and ask himself. He'd done so initially by letter, which she surreptitiously pre-read before sending it off before they actually had to meet in person and behave like civilized adults. Or rather, Severus had to act like a civilized adult. To her surprise, and Neville's, he'd actually thrown in a 'Thank you' nearly causing the young man to faint.
"Yeah, Dad doesn't like him..."
"Your Dad had to teach him." Hermione chuckled softly, pushing the boy's recently cut hair over his shoulder. How he looked so much like his father, "He's a very kind man, brave and strong. You'll learn a lot from him."
Firas furrowed his brows a bit doing the math in his head, "Did Dad teach you too?"
"He did." Hermione turned her head, smiling lovingly over at Severus, it was hard to believe how long ago that was.
"Did...Neville fight in the..." Firas lowered his voice glancing around for a moment, "War?"
"He did, he was brave. He saved many lives."
Firas smiled ever just so before pushing his face into his mother's chest. His sister and he had both been told—albeit without so much detail, about the second wizarding war. About the boy who had lived and the sacrifices made by so many on that night. That it had been the coming of a new age in which they now lived. Neither twin had asked much, though what they had had been answered truthfully and for their age. Now they were going to go to the school from which it happened.
"Hey aunt, Hermione."
"Renatus." Hermione smiled brightly at the rapidly growing teen, he'd definitely inherited his height from his father as she already had to tilt her head back to look at him properly.
"Firas nervous?" Renatus smiled down at the boy who huffed and turned his face away to hide his embarrassment.
"A little." Hermione pat the boy's back with a grin when he held her tighter.
"Well I know just the cure." Renatus grinned and gave Hermione a wink. He'd definitely picked up the same charms of his father though he looked strikingly like his mother. He'd cut his hair short this year, the lanky black locks falling rather nicely around his ears. It reminded her of Draco a little aside from the color.
Hermione braced herself as Renatus came behind Firas running his fingers along the boy's sides eliciting a high pitched giggle as he quickly released to shield himself, only to be heaved up over the shoulder of the much bigger boy.
"Ren!" Firas was definitely garnering attention when he called out but he didn't care. He wasn't a child anymore! He had a wand and everything!
Hermione giggled when Renatus turned so that Firas could see her, "Everything will be alright, love." She leaned up placing a kiss on his cheek which he promptly wiped away with a scowl. "Amura?" Hermione turned away with a smile as Severus was tucking the book into her bag.
"Ready, Mum." She giggled softly when Firas was thumped down, just happy it wasn't her. She pushed her long curls over her shoulder that had started to grow lighter from the summer. She came over with Severus right behind, coming into her mother's one-armed embrace smiling at Firas' reddened face.
"Take care of each other." Hermione could feel her own tears welling in her eyes when she placed a kiss on their respective foreheads. Her heart eased somewhat by the heat at her back.
"We will." They chorused turning their bright ying and yang eyes up.
"Remember, if you're going to cause trouble. Don't get caught." Severus smirked when Hermione elbowed him lightly before giving their children one more hug.
"I'll keep an eye out." Renatus grinned softly giving Amura an all-knowing grin, the two of them were quite the pair of trouble on their own.
Hermione snorted softly but shook her thought away, "Owl us any time. We love you."
"Love you, too." Amura grabbed her bag, still brimming with excitement and jogged off with Renatus into the carriage.
"I love you, too." Firas smiled sadly at the pair before raising his eyes towards his father. The look of pride inside the man's eyes giving the soft-hearted boy the strength he needed. He took a deep breath and turned away climbing into the carriage after his sister.
"He'll be fine." Severus pressed his lips to Hermione's temple to accent his whispered words.
"His heart is too kind..." Hermione leaned back into his embrace waving sadly at their children through the window.
"He'll be a Gryffindor then." Severus grinned a little when a smirk tugged at the corner of Hermione's lip.
"You're insufferable." She turned taking his hand in hers giving it a strong squeeze and turned her head to rest it on his chest. It was at this moment she caught sight of Harry and Ginny coming towards them with Albus in tow. She gave them a soft smile and pulled her weight from the man behind her.
"All settled then?"
"Barely could give him a hug before he bounded onto the train." Harry chuckled good-naturedly and let out a soft breath. Lily smiled at his hip her hand curled into his, her large bright eyes looking at the train with wonder.
Hermione smiled softly turning her head back up as the train let out its whistle. Something in her heart ached, being there, standing there after so long. She didn't want to admit it, didn't even want to inspect the thought that swirled around in her mind. Like smoke whispering through the wind, it remained, just barely there. She turned her eyes towards Harry and Ginny a morose smile painting her features as the train pulled away. Someone was missing.
Severus rested his hands gently on the arms of the woman before him. He didn't need any extra-perceptive traits to know her heart was in pain. His own heart ached when the woman who had changed his life in ways he could have never predicted pulled out of his gentle hold.
He had confessed everything that night. What he had done, the spell he had cast so many lifetimes ago. He had nearly taken to his knees to beg forgiveness. At the time, Hermione had asked him one simple question, a question to which he had honestly answered. The question had plagued his deepest thoughts over the months that had passed.
Nearly a year having gone by since then. She had granted his forgiveness weeks later. Though he knew, just as she, that something had to be done. At the time, she'd been too conflicted to express herself clearly and had subsequently remained uncharacteristically silent in any regard. Speaking only to the children, leaving him to his own pensive. They hadn't out right fought, but the tension between them had grown. Her question growing heavier with each passing day.
Doesn't everyone deserve a chance at redemption?
"Are you going to see him today?" Ginny had caught the small movement from the corner of her eye. To anyone who had known them as long as they had could easily tell that their relationship had grown taunt.
"Yes. I believe it is time." Hermione's smile faded completely, her eyes focused on something far in the distance. Ron had been spared Azkaban, but he had been sentenced instead to 5 years inside a mental maladies ward.
It had been clear to all involved that night that the boy grown man before them was not himself. The hearing saw all three of their testimony but it had been in Kingsley's hands. By some miracle the press had not been able to catch wind of the event and everyone involved were more than grateful.
"You're stronger than all of us," Harry let out a small sigh picking up Lily and placing her on his hip. He could not be so forgiving of what Ron had done, even after Hermione had informed him of the circumstance.
"Everyone deserves a chance." Hermione glanced over her shoulder into the face of the man who had overcome so much more than any of them combined. If he was able to come back from the darkness, anything was surely possible.
Ginny merely frowned and shook her head—blood or no—he'd nearly killed two children. How could anyone possibly live with their self after something like that? How could anyone be forgiven for even attempting such an act? Her mother had been put into St. Mungo's following the incident, the stress of it all making her exceptionally ill. Of course, her mother stilled loved him, but she too was unable to forgive what he'd done.
"You truly are the strongest of us all..." Ginny pulled Albus into her side.
Hermione gave them each a tight-lipped ghost of a smile before turning towards the barrier. She would never forgive Ronald for what he had done. There was no question on that. However, she didn't wish to live in constant fear that one day he would return. No, she was sure the blood would be on her own hands then. She was doing this for the safety of her children, for the security of the life she had created for herself. If he could move past everything he'd been through and truly move on with his life then she would have the peace that she most undoubtedly deserved.
"I want no one else...please, will you not look upon her? She is yours, no one else's...please...?" A deep sob caught in Melonie's throat as she lowered her head down to the small bundle in her arms. A few months old now, the beautiful baby girl slept peacefully in her mother's embrace unaware of the turmoil filling the young woman's heart.
Ron spared the woman a small glance, his eyes half-lidded and glassy from all the potions he'd been put under as part of his treatment. Only she had come to visit him, like clock work every two weeks. His heart ached at the sight of the baby that he believed he could never call his own. Even at trial he had remained silent, having nothing to say in his defense. He was a broken man, shattered into pieces too small to ever be repaired.
Melonie hiccuped harshly when he'd merely turned his eyes back down to his feet, "Don't you want to know her name? It's..." Her heart tightened with ambivalence, "Hope..."
Ron's lip twitched, a small sneer showing his teeth before he turned his head away once more. He rested his chin down upon his knees that he'd drawn up onto the sofa in the day room. It was mostly empty that day, just a single patient playing a morose song upon the piano in the corner.
Melonie lowered her head again, tears slipping free from her deep azure eyes. The baby in her arms let out a soft noise wrinkling her innocent face when her mother's tears fell down on her cheeks. Melonie wiped the small tear away with her thumb soothing the child back into peaceful rest.
"Please sign-in here."
Melonie lifted her head to the sound of the nurse behind the desk, her eyes widening with wonder. She had surely seen that woman before, a small memory ticking away in the back of her mind. Melonie herself hadn't been there for the trial, in fact, she hadn't heard about what he'd done until she'd gathered up enough courage to come and collect her things from their shared apartment the day after.
The apartment had been filled with Aurors who had only told her that she'd need to travel to Britain's Ministry for magic for answers. They still hadn't told her what he'd done, only that he'd been set for trial. She personally believed it was something she had done and even now after all this time, no one had informed her of anything different.
She swallowed thickly turning her eyes towards the man at the woman's side, his face was strict but she could just faintly see a softness around his eyes. They kept their voices low, or perhaps spelled so that they couldn't be overheard. Melonie's eyes turned back to the woman, her long gorgeous curls, her rounded face, yes she'd seen her before...but where?
"Director, to what do we owe the pleasure of your visit today?" The head healer had come at nearly light speed when he'd seen her coming up the large lawn. He had tried to be there to greet the very important woman but alas, he had not been quick enough.
"I would like to discuss the care of a patient under your watch." Hermione had become exceptionally well known over the years, steadily moving up and up.
It wasn't unusual for her to make personal visits to places such as this to make sure that every witch or wizard was receiving the care they deserved. There was still a handfull of people left that still believed that blood status made a difference in their care even though Hermione had long since changed the laws regarding those matters. She had turned down being placed on the ballet for Minister but even still many were vying for her to at least put her name in the ring.
"Of course, please my office is this way." The healer made to open the door that led behind the counter.
"That won't be necessary." Severus' deep voice nearly startled the man into a coronary and it took everything inside him not to roll his eyes, "The task we lay before you is simple." He set down a small vile filled with a sickly green partially translucent potion.
Hermione turned her head slightly, a movement catching her attention. Her brow furrowed when she saw a woman with a baby taking hesitant steps closer. She looked back at the healer, "Please do as he asks. Excuse me."
Melonie stopped in her tracks when the woman turned towards her, yes she was now certain. She was much older now but she had seen the folded picture that Ron had kept in his sock drawer enough times to recall her face now. She tilted her head back slightly as the woman came within respectable speaking distance.
Though before either of them could speak, Ron had come to his feet—his eyes wide, "No. No, you can't be here...I...I killed you... you're dead..."
Hermione turned her eyes away from the young woman to the terrified man still caught in a living nightmare. As much as she could never forgive him, it hurt to see his reality so distorted, "No, Ron. You didn't."
Hermione looked back down at the baby in the arms of a young woman, her brain was telling her she had met already before. There was no question that the woman had been there for Ron, with a child no less.
"No! No! You're dead! I killed you!" Ron's voice cracked and popped with the strain of his outburst, his hands coming up to claw at his neatly chopped hair. Two orderly's came from a nearby hallway, their wands in hand to try and calm the redhead.
Hermione wrapped a protective arm around the woman at her side pulling her away from the scene her former best friend was making. Even wandless, those inherent in the craft had a tendency to expel bursts of power even after they'd mastered a wand.
Melonie's heart was in her throat as she felt herself pressed into a protective embrace. The power radiating off of the witch was not lost on her and even though she brandished no wand she could easily tell that she hadn't need for one. Instead, she held Hope tighter letting the woman be her shield. She was not so un-accustomed to Ron's outbursts but this was the first time he'd ever claimed to have murdered anyone.
Hermione's face turned sad as the orderly's cast a spell over Ron making his entire body go limp. His head rolled back as they caught him in their arms. She let out a slow breath as they conjured a stretcher to lay him down on before she felt her arm releasing the young woman beside her. She turned her head down assuring herself that she was alright before furrowing her brows at the pure heartbreak on their face.
"It's going to be alright..."
Melonie shook her head, sniffling loudly. By some miracle, she managed to swallow down the lump in her throat, "Who are you?"
Hermione pulled her head away from the doorway to the question, it wasn't a question often proposed to her, "Hermione Granger-Snape..."
Melonie's eyes grew wider. Yes, she was certain that she knew the woman now, "You're the one..." The one that Ron would call out to in the throws of a nightmare, the one whose picture had been hidden away. She wasn't able to finish her thought but her eyes spoke volumes.
Hermione turned her eyes down to the child, an odd look covering her face. She didn't know exactly what the woman meant but she had an idea based off what Severus had told her about the curse he'd cast, "Not anymore."
"Yes?" Hermione turned away. A small spark of hope flickering inside her heart. There was someone who could love him, someone—perhaps, that could heal his heart.
"We will proceed with your treatment."
"Thank you." Hermione turned to look back at the woman and child, giving her a sad if morose smile before retreating back to Severus' side. There was nothing more to be done. It was in the fates hands now.
Hermione sighed softly as she entered their home, the lack of little pounding feet echoing inside her heart. An entire year without seeing her children's bright faces. She wasn't sure if she could make it. Tears brimmed the bottom of her eyes as she shucked off her coat to place it on the wall hook. Her body felt heavy, her heart near her feet.
Severus slipped his own coat from his shoulders as he watched the light grow dim inside his love's eyes. He didn't know why she had chosen today of all days to compound herself with emotional turmoil but he wasn't going to sit back and let her drown. As soon as he was free from his coat he reached forward taking her hand.
Saying nothing, though feeling much, he gently guided her towards the stairs. Despite their tension, she didn't resist his pull and followed up with him towards their bedroom into the bathroom. Once there he turned, slowly raising his hand to lightly thumb away the tears that had fallen before using his other to begin filling the bath.
Hermione's face pinched with resistance when his hands lowered down to her blouse but she didn't stop him. Rather she rested her hands on his forearms as he completed the task. Her eyes remained focused somewhere in the middle of his chest as the fabric was gently pulled free of her arms with her bra soon following. The smell of lavender filled the room, releasing small amounts of tension.
When he took to his knee to release the catch on her long deep blue skirt she found herself stepping out of the material. Her eyes closed, dropping tears on his head like a gentle summer rain. When the last was taken care of she shifted her weight, having lightly held his shoulders to keep her balance. As he rose, so did her eyes, a small sniffle accenting the pain she was doing so well to conceal inside. Though she knew, it was never truly hidden from him.
A silent spell removed the clothes from his frame and Severus took her hands once more. Stepping into the large tub, he guided her down to rest between his legs and let her back press against his chest. He joined their hands and gently wrapped them around her stomach, bravely resting his cheek on her temple.
No words needed to be spoken; their time together healing and caring for the other needed no assistance.
It took only a few moments before Severus could feel the tension growing in the flesh beneath his hands, it was seconds after with the first unrestrained sob broke the peace inside the room. Despite his previously erroneous belief that he'd held during his time at Hogwarts, Hermione wasn't a cryer.
She had cried yes, but she wasn't prone to such elaborate outbursts. Over time she'd become so strong, so independent that it was something so rare. She had become a master at handling herself and those around her, that when he would see the small glistening shine in the corner of her eye he would know that there was something of great importance weighing down her heart.
Severus wrapped his arms a bit tighter, letting her know that she was safe, that it was okay, that it was time. His own brow furrowed as he closed his eyes to the deep heart-wrenching sob that finally bubbled past her lips. Not as boisterous as those in her youth but it was the quiet of it that spoke volumes.
Hermione finally felt the last of her restraint breaking free. The warmth, the love, that surrounded her releasing the pain she had carried inside all this time. The responsibility over Ron coupled with sending her children off, compounded on each other.
She knew that it had to be done so as to finally learn when it was time to let go. Her children were safe, cared for by the strongest, wisest wizards there ever were. The trouble they would fine would be the trouble they created themselves. Ron too, was not alone, he was cared for and someone who had come to love him was waiting. There was nothing more for her to do, nothing more she could do.
Severus lifted his head as her tears ran silently once more, her chest expanding out to take a deep calming breath. She didn't release his hands to wipe at her eyes but rather shifted her head back to look into his eyes.
"I love you, so much." Even though her face was sad, her heart beat strong with her words reflecting inside her shimmering eyes.
Severus pressed his forehead lightly against hers, his nose lightly brushing hers as he raised their hands to rest over her heart, "I love you, too."
Hermione's breath stuttered slightly in her chest, her eyes closing while her ears tingled with the words he hadn't yet been able to say. It was the first time he'd actually been able to say those words exactly. Her heart soared higher than the tallest mountain and a graceful smile painted her lips.
Pain is a powerful gift, it must never be wasted. For it can destroy even the greatest of men or lead them on the path to greatness. Redemption can only be given to those strong enough to seek it.