AN: Ugh, this took me forever to write, and I'm still not impressed with it. :o By the end I just wanted the writing to be over. Hermione/Ron, small bits of Ginny/Harry.
Poor Hermione, they would all say. Her fiancé killed just two days before their wedding. Poor Hermione.
She could already hear the voices, and she already wished they'd stop. Yes, it was horrible; did they have to keep saying it?
It was more than horrible. It was...desolating. Tragic. Devastating. Hermione's once impeccable vocabulary seem to fail her as 'devastating' was the only word she could come up with to explain how she was feeling. Yet she knew that 'devastating' didn't even come close to describing the pain she felt...now that Ron was gone.
The second she heard the news, she knew she had to leave. She hadn't comforted Mrs. Weasley; she hadn't fled into Ginny's arms for comfort; she didn't cancel wedding plans for funeral ones; she just apparated. It probably wasn't smart; it probably wasn't safe; but it was what she had to do.
She didn't even know where she had apparated, at first. She hadn't really planned a destination. The second those words left Lupin's mouth...Ron...he's dead... she had been knocked numb. She had sat there stunned as Lupin explained the details of the death, then suddenly she just closed her eyes and sent herself away. She had felt someone reach out to stop her; she had heard Ginny shouting her name, but she just poofed away.
Once she felt solid ground under her feet, it wasn't enough to hold her up any longer. She trembled for a moment before her knees gave out, and she found herself sobbing horrifically into the ground, clutching at patches of grass and clawing at dirt. She cried her heart out onto the ground, weeping as she never wept before.
How could it have happened? How was it possible? Ron - dead! They always knew of the risk, but Hermione had to admit to herself she never really thought Ron would die. Not now, anyway. Back when they were teenagers, Hermione always had the secret fear that Ron - as Harry's best friend - would be murdered by one of Harry's enemies. But once Harry had defeated the Dark Lord, sacrificing himself to save the world, Ron's death never crossed her mind. She supposed the universe wouldn't be that cruel. Now she knew; the universe is a cold, uncaring mistress - she specializes in cruel.
After Harry died, everyone had gone into a period of solitary mourning. Ron had stayed with the Order, but he was useless to them, having presumably gone mute. He stayed in his room, only coming out for dinner (the only meal he would eat). He never said a word, never made eye contact with anyone. Ginny had run away - much like Hermione had now. No one ever found out where she had run to, though Hermione always suspected she retreated to someplace she had frequented with Harry - some secret romantic hideaway. It was this that gave Hermione the first inkling to where she had apparated.
Hermione returned the Muggle world after Harry's death. For the first time in her life, she hated being a witch, hated magic, hated the magical world completely. It had killed Harry, so she had disowned it. She returned to her parent's home and picked up her old life. She found a job at a library she particularly enjoyed; she reunited with the old friends she had left behind years ago before she had left for Hogwarts; she did anything to keep her mind off Harry.
It was with this thought in mind that Hermione figured out where she had ran away to. Still sobbing heavily, albeit to a slightly lesser degree, she shakily pulled herself up from the ground. Coughing up grass that had found its way into her mouth, wiping off the dirt that stuck to her tears, she hiccuped and looked around at her surroundings.
This was South Bungleton, the small Muggle village Hermione and Ron chose to live in after they were married. It was a quiet little town, not many residents, perfect for a newlywed magical couple to live in secrecy and raise a family. They had already bought a house - though she'd never raise a family there, Hermione decided it would be useful to live in secrecy for a while.
She was standing on a dirt road just outside the town. If one continued down it a bit further, it would become Main Street. It was getting late - the sun had set and the stars were just beginning to shine. Streetlights started to come on above Hermione's head and she felt a sharp pang as a memory entered her head..."Blimey, 'Mione!" Ron had exclaimed, breaking away from a passionate kiss. They had been taking a walk...down this very road. "Look how close those stars are!" He had stared up with a look of such excitement on his face that Hermione had followed his gaze without the single bit of doubt that these 'stars' were anything but stars. When she had realized what he was staring at, though, she had to laugh.
"Those are streetlights, Ron," Hermione had explained, giggling a bit and pulling him back into the kiss.
He had broken away again, a grin on his face. "I knew that," he had said, and Hermione hadn't believed him for a second, "But didn't it seem a whole lot more romantic when they were stars?"
Tears welled in her eyes again, and Hermione's heart grew heavier. She thought she had gotten all the tears out, but now she saw she was foolish to have believed so. Getting over the death of your true love took more than weeping. She closed her eyes and let these tears fall.
The memory of Ron was fresh in her head. Kissing under this lamppost; walking down this lane holding hands; gazing at the stars in each others arms. She felt sick, dizzy, overwhelmed. She was going to collapse again, she knew it. She breathed in, trying to steady herself, but it did little good. It seemed as if it were just yesterday they were here...just yesterday...
You were here yesterday, a nasty voice in her head pointed out, Ron was killed this morning - last night you two were in the town, at the pub...
Was that another reason she had transported herself here? It was the last place she had seen Ron alive? Was her subconscious - not to mention her heart - so desperate to cling to Ron it had taken her to the place where the freshest memories lay? Hermione pondered on this, feeling her heart beat faster. If this was what her subconscious wanted, then so be it. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Taking one step forward, she steadied herself and raised her head. The town was only a hundred or so yards away. The houses twinkled - porch lights left on, nocturnal villagers reading by candleight. The lightposts lead the way, illuminating the path. Hermione held her head high and started into the village. If memories would make her feel better, then she would go seek some memories.
She went straight to the pub, which was just on the edge of town. The Green Half, it was called. It was nicer, cleaner than The Leaky Cauldron, but then again, The Leaky Cauldron was frequented by people less than ordinary, while this quaint little Muggle pub was as normal as pubs came. Darts, billiards, cricket on the telly. No vampires or trolls hanging about this pub. Ron and Hermione were the oddest thing to hit this town since its founding, but the villagers took right to them...The pub had roared with laughter at Ron's joke. Her fiancé had looked pretty pleased with himself; he had been going over every joke he knew with Hermione the night before, trying to find one that was Muggle appropriate. This was the only one, and as the group of men standing around him leaned in eagerly to hear another one, he had merely taken another swig of beer and grinned good-spiritedly at them.
Hermione had stood on the other side of the building with the pub owner's wife, watching Ron make Muggle talk with the locals. She had wanted to stay by his side to monitor his words, in case he let something magical slip into the conversation, but the pub owner's wife Mary had insisted she leave the men to their business.
"They'll have a jollier time with out us ladies there to hassle them," Mary had said, half-jokingly. But as Hermione reflected on this, she wished she had insisted on staying. But she and Mary had sat in the back of the pub, sipping tea, chatting about trivial things such as the weather as Mary caught Hermione up on all the local gossip.
"Hey 'Mione!" Ron had shouted across the pub, drunkenly, "Come 'ere 'n give me a kiss!"
The men had cheered him on, roaring again and raising their mugs in salute. Ron had flashed them another grin, enjoying his popularity. Mary had looked at Hermione, shaking her head at the men, but there had been a twinkle in her eyes. Hermione had rolled her eyes and said teasingly, "Not when you're drunk, mister!"
The pub-goers had pounded the tables with their fists; some had fallen over with laughter. Ron had accepted their jests good-spiritedly and grinned back at them. Hermione had raised her eyebrows at him and he had wiggled his in return, accepting the challenge. Raising from his barstool, he had stumbled across the pub, capturing her in his arms.
"Gotcha..." He had mumbled into her ear, smelling distinctly of alcohol. He had pulled away from her for a second, staring into her eyes roughly, and she had smiled up playfully into his. Suddenly, he had covered her mouth with his. The beer had lingered on his tongue, and Hermione had drunk it up, savoring the taste. The barmen had been whooping and cheering in the background, but Hermione drowned them out and focused on her fiancé...
The second Hermione stepped into The Green Half, the room went quiet - not a nervous quiet, but a shocked silence. She could feel their stares, burning down on her, and she realized she must have been quite a sight, stumbling into the pub, alone and disheveled, tearstains fresh on her cheeks, dirt and grass covering her clothing. A hand trailed lightly to her hair, bushier than ever. She was wide-eyed, but unseeing. As shocked as the pub attendees were, Hermione was more so.
Suddenly, she felt herself being lowered into a chair, firm hands pushing her down into a sitting position. Someone wrapped a coat around her - a clever idea, for she had left the house in her current state of mind, and therefore had apparated away cloak-less. A warm mug was shoved into her hands, and Hermione stared down into it mindlessly. But the mug was warming her up, and soon she was coming back to her senses. Her return to reality was greeted by the voice of Mary the pub owner's wife ranting about calling the police.
"I never trusted that fiancé of yours for a second! He looked like a wife beater!" Mary steamed, trying unsuccessfully to push the other customers out of the pub, "Oh, I should have known! He was drunk and forcing himself on you, grinning while that imbecile husband of mine and his friends cheered him on..."
Hermione slowly registered with Mary was talking about and hurriedly corrected her, "Oh, no, Mary! Ron hasn't laid a hand on me!" She couldn't help preferring Mary's fantasy to her reality.
Mary sent her a look of disbelief. "Oh? Then what are you doing - barely dressed, a crying mess, running into my bar?" She gave up on shooing away the men, and sat down across from Hermione. The men stared on, eavesdropping.
She wondered briefly how she could tell Mary this, but quickly realized that Mary didn't know Ron at all. If Lupin could summon the courage to inform Hermione of the truth, Hermione could easily tell this stranger. But...she found it hard to speak the words. If she said it, she would confirm it. Hermione wondered if it would be easier on her to deny it...
A quick nudge at her arm made her realize she had been silent for quite some time now, pondering this ordeal. Mary stared at her, eyebrows raised. Newly sober men bared down on her, seeking information on their recently acquired companion.
Hermione conjured up the courage to speak, but her voice still came out shaky. "Ron's...dead, Mary. He's dead." She gripped the mug in her hands a bit tighter, and refused to meet eyes with anyone in the room.
Her words were greeted by complete silence. No one spoke a word, no one dared breathe. A choked sob found its way out of Hermione unexpectedly, but it was the only sound in the pub for a good long time. Finally, Mary found the courage, and murmured her condolences to the mourning lover. A couple of men from the bar muttered; one brave soul announced, "Gee - I liked him."
There - she had said the words. Did she feel worse? Yes, yes she did. Now she had admitted it - there was no turning back. Ron was really dead. She clenched the mug tighter; she thought it might shatter in her hands any moment now. She wasn't going to cry...not in front of these people...these geeilikedhimdidhebeatyou people... But she could hold it back, and she let the tears flow down her cheeks.
A hand landed lightly on top of hers, and Hermione raised her eyes into those of Mary's. Was that true concern there, in those aged blue pearls? Was this woman, who Hermione had known barely a day, truly worried for this practical stranger? The tears rushed harder, and Hermione's face scrunched as she tried not to sob openly.
"Tell me, Hermione," Mary whispered, "How did it happen?"
The scrunching stopped. Tear flow slowed. How did it happen? Hermione could have slapped herself for believing this woman was actually going to care about her pain. All that was in her blue eyes was the longing for something new to gossip about - something exciting she could tell her friends. Hermione could see it now...
"...he had died! Just two days before their wedding - none of us were invited of course, the ceremony was out of town, how inconsiderate! We were their new neighbors, weren't we? Oh, but that's not the point, now, is it? Oh, no, he was DEAD. Poor dear looked a mess. I thought he had beaten her! And, just between you and me, I still stand strong in that belief. He didn't look the part of a wife beater, but when he was drunk... How did he die? Oh, well..."
Her imagination stopped short as she wondered what she should tell this woman. The truth? That Ron had been murdered by some straggler Nazi-types, who had been on a five year killing spree since their leader had been destroyed by one of Hermione's friends back when they were still kids, in an Armenian market on official business for a group of magical vigilantes? That would give Mary something to gossip about. However, Hermione settled on a simpler version of the truth.
"He was murdered," She said, raising the mug to her lips and taking a long drink. Coffee. She pondered asking Mary if she had anything harder - she ought to, this was a pub! - but decided against it.
A glance at Mary revealed her shocked impression. She was startled for a moment, before she managed to croak out another question, "Did they...catch who did it?"
"No," Hermione said bitterly, practically spitting the word. Lupin had said there was suspicion one of the Malfoys might have done it, but no evidence to proof it. Hermione recalled Harry's claim that he didn't think Draco could have killed anybody...but Draco despised Ron a lot more than he hated Dumbledore. In her mind, the killer was convicted.
Another look at Mary showed she was even more deeply shocked - if even a bit horrified. Hermione quickly caught the meaning of this, and almost hexed the woman for her lack of sympathy. "Don't worry," She said dryly, "It was in Armenia. That's in Asia. You're safe."
Mary's face noticeably relaxed, while Hermione stiffened. Compassion. This woman simply lacked compassion. Selfishness, vanity, insouciance - yes, Mary had those less than flattering qualities, but her compassion - her lack of compassion - angered Hermione. She didn't know people this selfish existed in the world. Her true love had died, was murdered! She desperately needed comforting and all this woman cared for was that the murderer was nowhere near her home.
Hermione stood up abruptly, upsetting the table, spilling tea upon Mary's wool garments. The coat slipped off her shoulders, but the fire raging insider her kept her warm enough. Mary hopped up from the table as well, patting at her skirt where scalding tea stains had begun to form. The elder woman stared at Hermione incredulously, surprised at her sudden outburst.
"I've got to go," Hermione said, icily, stepping backwards over the fallen coat. Backing slowly away from the table, she made eye contact with Mary. The latter's eyes shone with confusion and even a slight bit of annoyance, but then...there was also the faint glimmer of excitement. Mary would be telling this story for years...perhaps to engaged couples such as Ron and Hermione. Couples that would last to their wedding night.
Hermione's eyes, too, were filled with many different emotions. Hers shone with fear and shock, pain, anger and sadness. And, if one were to stare into them as Mary did the second before Hermione stormed out of the pub, one would see, hidden just behind all the other feelings expressed in her eyes, was the dull reflection of death. As Mary recognized this, she lowered her eyes to the ground, and Hermione turned suddenly and left of the pub.
"So," Ron had hiccuped, stumbling out of the building, one arm slung around his darling fiancé for support, "What did - hic - did you think of - hic - that pub, eh?" Hermione had noticed his eyes being slightly unfocused, a dimwitted smile upon his face. She had laughed, amused by his drunken display. Ron had been anything but a violent drunk - he had been loud, no doubt, but he was playful when intoxicated. A bit rowdy, but nothing Hermione didn't love.
"It was alright," She had said, smiling broadly, eyes glistening with laughter, "I think we'll fit in just fine, don't you?"
"That Roland," He had gone on, seemingly oblivious to her question, "That Roland - hic - now he's...he's a nice fellow. hic A good fellow..." His words had been slurred, alcohol still holding tightly to his breath. "An'...an' didja like that Mary girl? His...his... hic wife?"
Hermione had honestly found Mary a bit ordinary - she had seemed massively more interested in gossip than anything important - rather like Lavender and Parvati had been back at Hogwarts. But, Hermione had thought, I suppose she's the type that grows on you. She had then looked up into Ron's face, and found he had taken her silence to be negative and was staring at her intently, his face full of worried. "'Cos you know...if you didn't like her, we don't have to live here," He had said, grabbing for her hand, pulling her to a halt in her walking, "I'm not happy if you're not happy!"
She had smiled and lifted a hand up to his face, kissing him lightly on the lips. "It's alright," She had said, half laughing, "I liked her." She had continued walking down the street, skipping a few steps in front of him, before twirling around to grin at him, "Besides - we already bought a house!"
Having closed her eyes while she laughed, she had been caught off guard by the bear hug Ron had grabbed her in. The sudden warmth had surprised her, and she had thrown open her eyes. But the splash of red hair in front of her eyes had relaxed her, and she had cuddled into Ron's arms. "I love you," He mumbled into her tangled hair. A small laugh had escaped from her and she whispered back, "I love you, too." Looking back, Hermione realized how badly she had wanted that moment to go on forever...but...
"Hey, what's that?" Ron had said, staring over her shoulder, relaxing his grip on her. "All those lights?" Expecting some drunken vision, or worse - more streetlights - Hermione had turned almost reluctantly, then burst out laughing as she stared at the bright lights of the movie theater behind her. A small group of teenagers had been hanging around outside, playing on one of those dancing machines, laughing and talking loudly amongst themselves.
"That's a cinema, Ron," Hermione had said, eyes glistening as she watched the teenagers play. A curly hair girl, her hair dyed radically purple, had been relaxing in the arms of tall older boy, his head fashionably shaved. They look cute together, actually, Hermione had noted. Trailing her eyes back to Ron, she had realized he had looked horribly confused - more so than normally as the beer took its toll on him.
"What," He had asked, looking completely bewildered, "the hell is a cinema?"
Rolling her eyes, Hermione had grabbed his hand, and, leading him along the road, had launched into a rather lengthy and wordy explanation of Muggle films...
It was in front of the cinema that Hermione found herself now, gazing up at the same bright lights she had before, the titles of unfamiliar movies flashing above her head. A late night showing of some new action film was currently playing - the normally rowdy crowd of teenagers was no doubt inside watching the film. Only two people lingered outside the theater, cuddled into each other's arms.
Hermione was fast to notice that this young couple was the same young couple from the previous night - it was hard mistaking the bright purple hair and shiny bald top for anything else. Hermione pondered to herself why these young lovers weren't inside enjoying the movie; once she had told Ron the movie theater was a popular date spot, he loudly and drunkenly insisted her would take her there one night. She pushed the thought of the two of them cuddling in the theater right this second to the back of her mind, refusing to acknowledge it. Instead, she stared silently at the two teenagers. Using her logic of the changing times, she deemed the two out on a smoke break.
To her surprise, the girl merely cuddled into her boyfriend's arms until finally she reached into her pocket and pulled out not a lighter, but a coin. She slipped the coin into the dance machine, grabbing the boy's hand and pulling her up on the platform to dance with her. Hermione let out a small cry as the machine suddenly burst with a rather slow song.
"Here...in the place where we first met...so long ago..."
They dance holding hands... Hermione thought, dizzily. It's somewhat romantic...
"With a smile...and a face I can't forget...but that was long ago..."
They're so in love, She observed, At such a young age...
"In this town...we shared some history...as I look around, I remember how we used to be...all the things he told me..."
"The way he used to hold me then..."
And so similiar.
"And from now 'til forever more..."
"He won't hold me no more..."
The girl's staring at me now...
"Is this the way that it's gonna be..."
I should leave.
"He won't come back to me!"
It was as if Hermione had been held in place by magic, an absurd thought as she was the only witch or wizard around for miles. But no...she had been held there by the music, the song, the sight of the two young adults, so madly in love, so very like her and Ron. She had been frozen by the familiarity - the youthful affection that had once belonged to her. It almost hurt her, almost made her cry out in pain, but the pain was countered by unbelievable sadness washing over her, followed by complete longing. The purple-haired girl was casting her weird glances every now and then; Hermione's staring, which gave way to a face with an anguish expression, must have worried the girl. Before the teenager alarmed her boyfriend and Hermione ruined their romantic moment further, Hermione turned on her heel and ran, the last words of the song lingering after her.
"I'll remember the one I used to love..."
It had taken them ages to arrive at the small house they were soon to call home; Ron had been stumbling drunkenly the entire journey, giving Hermione the hardest time as she tried to lead him down the road. An hour or so later, she was pulling the intoxicated fiancé up the steps onto the darkened porch. Fearing that if she lost her grip on Ron he would undoubtedly fall to the ground, she attempted an odd sort of balancing act as she fumbled around in her purse for the key to the door, before suddenly remembering they had left the door unlocked. In this small town, it was absurd to think that someone might break into your house. And anything of that might catch a Death Eater's attention had been safely locked away at Molly's. She had kicked the door open, dragging her husband-to-be in after her.
Nothing but the mattress had been unpacked yet. Ginny had insisted she would do it for them while they honeymooned. Ron, always glad to get out of housework, had happily agreed. The mattress had been laid out in the front parlor; Ron had been lazy and dropped it upon entering. The convenience of this arrangement suddenly had stricken Hermione, as she lay Ron down upon it carefully. "There you go, you drunken brute," She had said, teasingly. "Sleep it off; though I dare say, you'll have one hell of a hangover in the morning." He had merely smiled up at her, holding his arms out, begging. "Join me," He had mumbled, reaching out for her touch. She had laughed, but agreed, climbing onto the dusty mattress with him. He had immediately pulled her into a hug, and she had cuddled willingly into his chest. "My 'Mione..." he had slurred, holding her tightly. She had laughed yet again as she pulled slightly away from him. Kissing him softly on the lips, she had whispered a silent command to sleep. He had stared at her dreamily, blinked a few times, then obediently complied. His soft snoring had kept her awake, and she had lain there for a while, gently stroking his bright red hair. In a few hours, she had fallen asleep as well. In five hours, they would be rudely awaken by a member of the Order.
In six hours, they would kiss goodbye with intent to see each other that night.
In ten hours, he would be dead.
In twenty hours, she would hear of his death.
In twenty-four hours, she would find herself on the exact same mattress, alone.
Nothing but the mattress had been unpacked yet. Ginny had insisted she would do it for them while they honeymooned. Ron, always glad to get out of housework, had happily agreed. The mattress had been laid out in the front parlor; Ron had been lazy and dropped it upon entering. The convenience of this arrangement suddenly had stricken Hermione, as she lay Ron down upon it carefully.
"There you go, you drunken brute," She had said, teasingly. "Sleep it off; though I dare say, you'll have one hell of a hangover in the morning."
He had merely smiled up at her, holding his arms out, begging. "Join me," He had mumbled, reaching out for her touch. She had laughed, but agreed, climbing onto the dusty mattress with him. He had immediately pulled her into a hug, and she had cuddled willingly into his chest. "My 'Mione..." he had slurred, holding her tightly. She had laughed yet again as she pulled slightly away from him. Kissing him softly on the lips, she had whispered a silent command to sleep. He had stared at her dreamily, blinked a few times, then obediently complied. His soft snoring had kept her awake, and she had lain there for a while, gently stroking his bright red hair. In a few hours, she had fallen asleep as well.
In five hours, they would be rudely awaken by a member of the Order.
She sat gingerly on down on the springy mattress; she could feel her heart break as she looked down upon the place where Ron had slept so peacefully only the night before. Even worse, she could feel his scent rising from the sheets. The tears fell heavily from her eyes as she crashed upon the mattress, sobbing rather heavily. Pulling the blankets to her face, she curled up into the fetal position and just let the tears fall. He was here only twenty-four hours ago...only last night... her mind screamed, over and over again. Only last night... How was it even vaguely possible that he could be gone? The thoughts running through her head were quickly failing to make sense. Two days before their wedding... one hell of a hangover... cinema?... gee I liked him... look how close the stars are!... the one I used to love...
She did not know how long she had lain there crying; she did not know when she had fallen asleep, but the early morning sun shining through the window told her a long while had passed. Time had not done its part to heal the wound, however. Though the tears had evaporated from her cheeks, the ache of her broken heart still existed when she awoke.
Rolling over, she threw her arm across the bed. Where normally Ron would have lain snoring gently, her arm hit air and then landed lightly on the mattress. She knew it would happen, and yet she could scarcely believe it...
"How will I go on...?" She half mumbled, half sobbed, burrowing her face into the pillows. It didn't seem possible. She couldn't even begin to comprehend...
Rubbish, the small voice inside her head said, You'll get along just fine!
She actually laughed out loud at the voice's absurd statement.
Don't believe me? it said, in a tone that reminded Hermione of a certain former Potions master, You bounced back superbly after Harry's death!
Even after all these years, it still stung to hear anyone mention Harry's death. She was shocked her conscience would dare use it in an argument against her. "You...why, you can't possible compare the two!" She stuttered.
And why not? The voice countered, They were both your best friends. They are both dead. You managed to deal with one. You should be able to deal with the other.
"You...you can't compare!" Hermione stuttered again, "A best friend and a lover! They are two different things in the entire!
Oh, never mind about that, you silly girl. You can argue that point until the cows come home, but it won't matter. What matters is that you overcame one tragically devastating death, you can overcome another.
"But..." Hermione said, practically whimpering, "I only recovered from Harry's death because...because of Ron..."
Oh, and suddenly you don't have any friends left in the world? The voice sneered, Just because your best friends are gone, it doesn't mean you don't have friends still alive.
The voice had a point. She thought for the first time in ages about Molly and Ginny and Lupin and the others...Fred and George...Luna...Neville...
They must be worried sick about you. The voice said, softening its tone.
"I...I just ran off. I didn't even consider..." Hermione started.
The voice's tone was soft still. You don't think they loved Ron too? You don't think that maybe they're hurting as well?
"It's...it's different. He was my fiancé," Hermione insisted, "He was just..."
Their son? Their brother? Their friend? The voice whispered, It hurts the same, no matter what form their love took.
Hermione was silent. The voice went on. What about Ginny? Hasn't she gone through the same thing? And wasn't she just picking out bridesmaids dresses with you, cheerfully and happily?
She hadn't even considered...
You hadn't even considered. The voice said, a bit more firmly. Now, Hermione. Go home. They need you. You need them.
A small mental image flashed before her eyes. Molly sobbing into Ginny's arms, but Ginny was equally helpless. Lupin looking on uncomfortably, as Mad Eye Moody looked away with both his magical eye and his real. Luna staring blankly out the window. She should be there with them, she knew it. They shared this pain together.
She recalled that Ginny had acted the same after Harry's death. She had taken off without warning. But it wasn't until she returned home to the rest of the Order did she begin to heal. Just a few months ago they had been picking out wedding gowns as happy as any other bridal party...would Hermione, too, begin to feel cheerful?
Only if you go home... The voice whispered.
She stood up, oddly strengthened by this strange conversation with herself. She walked briskly over to a closet, wherein hung a few coats. Wincing briefly as her hand passed over Ron's tatty overcoat, she reached into the pocket of one of her cloaks and pulled out a photograph. In it, her and Ron stood, their arms around each other, waving blissfully at the picture. She smiled, but couldn't stop the tears from flowing down her cheeks.
Pulling the photo up to her lips, she gave it a gentle kiss. The couple in the picture giggled and kissed each other in response.
"I'll always love you," Hermione said, "But I need to stop mourning and start healing. Your family needs me."
The couple in the photo looked up at her and nodded, as if they understood.
"I'll always remember you..."
With a pop, Hermione disappeared.