Left of the Middle
Chapter One: That's the beauty of,that's theglory of…
Author's Note: So, I sit down to write a History essay and end up with this. What can I say…I am the master of procrastination.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related characters are property and creation of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury, and Warner Bros.
"You've already said that."
"I know. And I'm still bored."
"Then find something else to do," Hermione snapped, her patience wearing thin.
"But I'm bloody bored!" exclaimed Ron, attempting to glare at her. If it wasn't for the darkness, maybe he'd be able to see what she was doing.
Hermione sniffed disdainfully. "My mother always told me that intelligent people don't get bored."
Ron snorted, but let it slide.
Silence once more reigned in the darkness.
Hermione began to count to ten, enjoying the silence, until Ron spoke again. His voice was little more than a whisper. "Do you think…do you think the others are safe?"
Swallowing nervously, Hermione shook her head, before realising that Ron couldn't see her in the dark. "I don't know…I hope so."
A hand reached out and touched her thigh and Hermione yelped. "Relax, it's just me," muttered Ron. A rustling of leaves indicated that he'd begun to crawl closer. Hermione attempted to relax, but her nerves were still strung tightly from the battle. Every sound set her on edge.
Finally Ron settled beside her, and Hermione forced herself to relax. "We should leave soon," she said. "Try and find the others and regroup." The thought of leaving their temporary safe haven caused a shiver to run down her spine.
"Yeah…yeah, we should," agreed Ron, sounding no more enthused about the idea than she was. Images from the battle sprang unbidden into Hermione's mind; they had been holding their own until those…things had come.
Against normal witches and wizards they could manage – although the other side's willing use of the forbidden curses made it rather daunting.
Against an army composed of giants, werewolves, veelas, vampires, and uncountable numbers of Dementors, however…
The feeling of horror amplified and Hermione began to shiver once more. Ron awkwardly wrapped an arm around her. "We don't have to go just yet," he said quietly. "We can wait a bit longer to make sure it's safe."
Hermione shook her head, fighting to control the shakes the wracked her body. "It's been three hours. After the way our side split up and seperated, You-Kno…Voldemort would have moved his forces to somewhere else." Hermione bit her lip, dreading what they might find when they went back. "Besides, at least then you won't be bored," she said, making an attempt at humour.
"I think I'd prefer to be bored," said Ron, his voice cracking slightly towards the end.
Hermione braced herself as she stood up. Straightening herself and tightening her grip on her wand, she leant down and offered a hand to Ron.
"Shouldn't I be the one doing that?" he asked, and despite the darkness, Hermione could almost see him quirking his left brow as he asked the question. Like he always did when he was teasing her.
She pulled him to his feet without comment. "Be careful," she whispered when they were standing.
"Always," he returned.
Silently, with ease of practice, the two began to make their way back.
Bill Weasley stood outside in the cool night air, long red hair forming a coppery nimbus around his form.
The battle had been a complete disaster. Where had all the Dementors come from? All up, Dumbledore had estimated over a hundred million Dementors all up in Voldemort's army. One dementor was devastating. The effect of a hundred million Dementors was indescribable.
Recollections of the feelings that had swept over him as the Dementors had entered onto the battlefield ran through him, and it was all that Bill could do to stay upright. Taking deep breaths of the bracing night air, he steadied himself on the railing until he regained his composure.
And he had seen Fleur.
They had faced off in battle, and now it seemed that every endearment he had ever called her, every night that she had fallen asleep cradled in his arms, every broken word of love she had whispered in their bed…none of it mattered now.
Voldemort had summoned all of those with Veela blood to his side, and even though Fleur was only a quarter of that species, she had not been strong enough to resist the call.
When Bill had faced her on the battlefield, there was no recollection in her eyes as she saw him. As she had lifted her wand and begun the intonation for the Killing Curse, there had been nothing that even hinted that she was still Fleur.
And he had killed her.
The more rational part of his mind (in truth, the only part of his mind that wasn't numb from the horrors of that day) argued that he had no other choice. He had to kill her, or be killed himself.
However, that did nothing to soothe his mind which seemed intent on reliving every happy moment he had shared with Fleur.
Whoever had said that war was beautiful had lied. Whoever said that war was glorious had lied as well. Where was the beauty and the glory in something that pitted people against each other, tore lovers apart, killed innocent children who had to fight, and caused so much unnecessary death and heartache?
The result of the battle had been disastrous for their side. Over a thousand hadn't been quick enough to run when the Dementors arrived on the field, and had been Kissed. Bill had seen their blank, empty faces, and a part of him died as he saw them. Dumbledore was badly injured. The Boy-Who-Lived was still living, but only just. Ron and Hermione were missing in action still. Bill dreaded to think of what had become of them – were they dead now, or worse?
And worse yet, it wasn't the end. This would continue to happen until Voldemort was either defeated, or all of their resistance was wiped out.
Bodies littered the battlefield. Those who lived were too tired to go down and bury them properly, and so they lay there and would most likely continue to do so for some time.
A footfall behind him startled him, and he spun around quickly, clamping a hand to his side as the long gash that he had received there re-opened. His heart hammered against his chest, and only slowed down slightly when he saw Ginny standing behind him, her hair a bright contrast to her pale, drawn face and austere nursing robe.
"You're hurt," she stated quietly.
Bill shrugged. "There are those who are worse off. Charlie? George? Tonks?"
Ginny's eyes and voice were deadened as she spoke. "Charlie is still unconscious. He may or may not respond to the treatment… I think he will. Tonks is fine, just a bit bruised and traumatised."
Ginny bit down on her lip. "It might be an idea to come and pay your last respects now."
Bill nodded. Words had become redundant.
"Bloody hell," mumbled Ron.
The field before them was covered in bodies. People who had fought for both sides lay there as small creatures raided their pockets and robes, stealing wands and jewelry and other assorted valuables.
"So this is what war is," murmured Hermione, tears stinging her eyes. "It doesn't matter what side you fought for, you'll end up the same one way or another."
Ron leaned heavily against her, favouring his right leg. He didn't reply, and Hermione didn't blame him. There were times when words didn't help, and this was one of them.
Picking their way through the carnage, Hermione only paused to dry-retch. They'd be at the safe house soon enough, and once there they could find out what was happening.
Ron continued to use her as a brace, and Hermione suspected that his injury was worse than he had originally claimed. She'd thought about offering to levitate him to school, but she didn't think that she had enough strength to do something like that. She was all out, or very close too, and any remaining magic left in her, she wanted to save in case they were attacked.
The two continued on in silence, whilst creatures of the night continued to desecrate the bodies of friends, loved ones, and enemies.
Bill was back outside. For the moment, being confined inside the stone walls felt too much like a prison sentence. Closing his eyes, he remembered how he had held George's hand as he had slipped away. Yet another death that he would mourn today, although his eyes remained dry.
It had been Ginny who had removed his hand from Georges', sat him down in a seat. It had been Ginny who had ordered him to remove his shirt so she could treat the gash in his side. He had done as she had said, wondering silently when his baby sister had gained so much authority, and when had she become so pale and gaunt. She had said he was in shock, and after wrapping him in a large blanket and ordering him to lie down, had gone to treat her other patients.
Bill hadn't been able to stay inside though – not with all the wounded and the dying laid out around him.
"Bill?" For the second time that evening, Bill turned around, heart hammering in his chest. Hermione stood a few feet away, with a pale Ron supporting himself by leaning against her. Both were covered in an array of cuts and bruises, Hermione's robes in tatters about her, and Ron's leg looked twisted and odd.
But they were there. And they were alive.
Bill walked towards them, and removing Ron's arm from Hermione's shoulders, wrapped it about his own instead. He looked enquiringly at Hermione, but she shook her head. "I'm fine, Ron's the one you need to worry about."
Nodding, Bill began to walk his brother to one of the treatment rooms, whilst Hermione followed slowly behind.
It was only after Ron had been deposited into Ginny's care that Bill and Hermione turned to look at each other. "You should get that looked at," he said quietly, pointing at a cut that spanned the length of her back.
"There are those who need the Healer's more," she said softly in return, mirroring the sentiments that he had expressed earlier.
Bill looked down consideringly. Getting up, he walked over to where the medicine cabinet was, and got the paste that Ginny had smeared on his own wound. "Take off your robe," he said, attempting to use the same firm tone that Ginny had used on him. "I can put some of this on, and it should clean the cut and heal it up."
Hermione did as he asked without a second thought. A few years ago, Bill Weasley telling her to take off her robes would have resulted in blushes and scandalized giggling. Now however, those who could help, helped where they could, and the line that had been drawn between the sexes for propriety had vanished temporarily.
The hand that smoothed the salve onto her back was gentle, and Hermione started to cry softly. One day…how could so much destruction have been managed in one day? She didn't think she'd said it aloud, but she might have.
She was aware of the arms encircling her and bringing her closer, being careful not to disturb the ointment that had just been applied. Hermione continued to cry softly until sleep took her.
Bill looked down at the young girl in his lap, before picking her up and placing her gently on one of the beds. Smoothing frizzy chestnut hair back from her pale face, he kissed her temple softly, same as he had done with Ginny when she was younger.
So this was the glory and the beauty of war. Bill sat back down and bowed his head as, finally, the tears flowed freely.
(This is the part where the author begs shamelessly for reviews…)