Story Title: you should see me in a crown
School & Year: Hogwarts Year 4
Theme: Darkness. Write about how a character reacts to the unknown.
Mandatory Prompt: [Occupation] Painter
Additional Prompt: [First line/last line] The crown sat askew on (pronoun or name)'s head.
Word count: 1816
Additional Information: When torturing Hermione at Malfoy Manor, Bellatrix hit her with a mysterious curse, and as a result, she could no longer see herself in photographs or mirrors.
you should see me in a crown
The crown sat askew on Hermione's head. She shifted in her chair, and if it weren't for her bushy tangles, the crown would have slid to the floor.
"Do I really need to wear this thing?" she asked, readjusting the sparkly tiara. She pushed it to the very top of her voluminous hair, and there it sat, unstable, like a bird perched atop sagging twigs. "Don't I look ridiculous?"
"You look beautiful," Ron assured her. And he meant it. Sure, the crown didn't add to her beauty, but it was necessary. It was Ron's first time drawing Hermione and he needed an anchor — a commonplace object that had no emotion attached to it, something easy to draw. Something he could do justice. The crown he had picked up at a Muggle party-supply store did just the trick.
He was almost finished coloring in the unnaturally-red gemstones that lined the edge of the crown when Hermione spoke again.
"Well, I don't exactly know how I look, do I?"
And that was the problem — she didn't. Ever since she had woken up at Shell Cottage after Bellatrix's ruthless torture, she had been unable to see her reflection. She'd walk past a mirror and only see her background, and much to Ron's dismay, she couldn't see herself in photographs either.
No one knew what kind of curse Bellatrix hit her with. They had initially thought it was some sort of Vampirism, but, thankfully, she still lacked an appetite for blood. It could have been anything coming from Bella — there were still scars on Hermione's body that hadn't healed, curses that even the brightest witch of her age couldn't explain, and the event took place almost seven years ago.
Ron shuddered when he remembered being locked in the dungeon, listening to Bellatrix snarling upstairs. "Don't worry about the scars. You'll never even have to see them." Then that cackle, laced with amusement and pity. A cat playing with her prey.
At the time, neither one of them knew what Bellatrix had meant by that.
Ron would never forget Hermione's fear and panic when she found out. She had finally gathered up the courage to look in the mirror to see her injuries, only to find out she couldn't see anything at all. She reached a hand to where her face should have been as tears burst from her eyes.
"You're healing," Ron had told her. "You still look like you. See?"
"No, Ron," she gasped between sobs. "I don't see."
The realization tore Ron's heart in half. He held her close and pressed a kiss to her cheek. The taste of her salty tears made his throat clench, and he couldn't help but wonder what the reflection of their embrace looked like to Hermione. Was he clutching nothing? Wrapping his arms around empty space?
Since then, they'd taken it upon themselves to find out what was wrong with her. Always searching for answers, they became increasingly frustrated when they found none. Her condition dumbfounded every Healer she visited. After countless appointments and endless testing, they could have found more closure in a crystal ball.
Even if Hermione grew to accept that she'd never know, Ron couldn't.
"Lucky for you," said Ron as he forced his mind away from the unpleasant memories. "Your husband is a great painter."
The word felt so foreign, yet so right. He'd only been her husband for a few hours, and he was pretty sure he'd never tire of calling himself that. He had barely gotten used to fiancé.' Before that, it had taken him years to accept he was deserving of the title boyfriend.
Painter, however, no longer felt new. He'd been a painter since he learned of Hermione's curse. It had taken time and practice to develop the skill to do her justice, but Hermione deserved to see how beautiful she looked, at least through Ron's eyes.
She sat in a plush armchair by the window, her legs crossed underneath her satin gown, which gave her the look of grace and elegance. Her hair spiraled to her shoulders and framed her rosy cheeks. She wasn't wearing a lot of makeup, just a delicate brushing of mascara and blush, courtesy of Ginny.
With a determined tilt of her head, the crown fell to the floor, landing with a clack. She grinned, happy to rid herself of the plastic tiara.
"It's okay. I don't need it anymore." Ron had already finished painting the crown and was now working on the delicate freckles that studded the bridge of her nose.
Time slipped away when Ron painted. Soon, the collar of his Muggle tuxedo had loosened, his tie hung lazily around his neck, and he had pushed his sleeves up to his elbows, exposing his sweat-glistened, tattooed forearms. Hermione had shifted in her chair, eventually relaxing into the cushions until she draped her legs over one arm and let her head rest on the other. And that's exactly how Ron wanted to paint her — not the rigid, posed Hermione, but the easy-going, relaxed Hermione. The lighthearted version that didn't mind wearing a party favor on her head.
He continued to watch her, hoping he could capture it all. How the corners of her mouth tilted up in amusement, the soft glow of her eyes in the dim light of their hotel room, and the way she kicked the tiara off to the side with a flick of her bare foot — it all alluded to a more playful Hermione. One that spent years overcoming trauma, guided by Ron's carefree attitude toward life.
"Are you almost done?" she asked, her voice a mimicry of herself from years ago, pleading for him to finish his homework.
"You can't rush art, Hermione."
"Then I might take a nap," she said, yawning. "Wake me up when you're finished."
She tucked her legs in and closed her eyes. Ron wanted to laugh at how the armchair seemed to swallow her whole. It was difficult to draw her in her current positioning, but he didn't mind. Ron wasn't looking for a specific pose, but rather an aura. He smiled at the thought, knowing Hermione would roll her eyes if she heard him say he was painting her aura.
And that was the exact aura he was going for.
Hermione dozed off while Ron continued the portrait, spending extra time on the small details of her body. He managed to capture the delicacy of her fingers and perfectly-painted nails, but was it possible to incorporate the way they made his heart beat faster when she held his hand? Or the electric jolt they gave him every time she touched him?
He sketched out every ruffle and groove of her dress, the one she agonized over buying simply because she couldn't see how it looked on her, despite Ginny and her mum insisting she looked beautiful. She ended up choosing one that made her feel her best, and as a result, she radiated. Could he show the way she glowed? Or allude to his reaction upon seeing her walk down the aisle? His eyes had watered and his palms broke out in sweat.
He finished the painting by honing in on the details of her face. Her eyes softened when she closed them, as though she had finally shut herself off from all the stress in their lives. The world was a crazy place — the war had shown them that — but her sleeping expression suggested her mind was an escape from all of that. Had it always been that way, or was that the effect Ron had on her? Maybe she had slowly adopted his carefree attitude, at least when she was around him.
If only he could include that shift in her demeanor in something as simple as a portrait. Maybe someday, when he became a better painter.
"Can I see it?"
Hermione had stirred and was now watching him from her cozy position in the armchair. She smiled at him and her cheeks glinted pink.
"It's not perfect."
Hermione chuckled. "Neither am I."
Wrong. Ron took a hard look at the final product. It was accurate and showcased his technical skill, but it would never match reality. "It doesn't do you justice."
Hermione sat up straighter and rolled her eyes. "Ron, please. I want to see it."
With a defeated huff, Ron turned the portrait around. Hermione scanned his drawing, studying it for a few moments before she smiled softly.
"Do you like it?" His voice cracked with nerves, resembling that of a teenage boy.
Without answering, Hermione glanced at the plush rug that lined their hotel room floor. Her cheeks glowed crimson red, a color fit for her new Weasley name. She bit her lip and brought her eyes to Ron's painting to study his creation.
"Do you see how beautiful you look?" he asked.
"No," said Hermione as she shook her head. "All I see is the crown."
At her words, Ron's heart sank to his stomach. He wanted to be proud of it, because to him, it was so life-like. He could smell the vanilla of her shampoo from the deep brown curls on the canvas, her eyes brimmed with her vast knowledge and wisdom, and her soft smile made his heart flutter.
But she couldn't see it.
The real Hermione wore the same soft smile as she pushed herself up from her chair and approached Ron. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she perched her hips on his lap. "I love it."
What? How could she love a blank canvas? "Hermione, you can't even see it."
"Exactly," she whispered into his ear. "That means it must be perfect."
"Don't you want to know—"
She interrupted his question by tightening her embrace. "I don't need to know."
Her words echoed in his mind a few times before making sense.
In a weird way, they clicked. She had acknowledged the very shift in her personality that he'd been struggling to pinpoint. Her playfulness, easy-going nature, and gentle acceptance of the unknown — this wasn't the same type-a Hermione of their Hogwarts years. This was a Hermione that took life a little less seriously. Ron had definitely rubbed off on her.
Yet, Ron's thoughts were still reeling. How could she not see herself in a painting? There had to be an explanation. A solution — they just hadn't found it yet. "We'll figure this out, Hermione. Because I have to know."
Now he was the one who'd never be satisfied without answers. Maybe she'd rubbed off on him, too.
She chuckled at his insistence, then rose to her feet. Their fingers intertwined, and he followed suit, standing up and letting her lead him toward the bed. "I know you do, but let's figure it out later."
Ron felt his cheeks grow warm. And she was right — it was their wedding night. Life's great mysteries could wait until tomorrow.