A/N: Look, a serious story! I felt this had to be written at some point because there are two things that I absolutely want to happen in book seven (besides Voldemort's death): Percy coming back and Neville finding out it could've been him. So, I wrote it. Yeah! Also, I have some hints in here at how I think Harry should defeat Voldemort. This story occurs about a month or so after the "last battle."
Disclaimer: The characters, conflict, and setting are NOT MINE. However, the general plot is, so HA.
The flames in the Weasley's living room fireplace flickered, casting devilish shadows on the far wall. He watched Hermione stare at them with dead eyes. For the past few weeks her eyes had been like that: devoid of feeling, of emotion, of life.
They were all huddled silently in the room. Hermione looked into the flames, her knees up to her chin, arms wrapped around her legs, back against the armchair where Ron sat.
Ron's expression was neutral. He didn't look angry or sad or any of the emotions he had every right to be feeling; he was calm, accepting. It was eerie. He rubbed Hermione's shoulders and said nothing, ever. He hadn't spoken in weeks.
Ginny lay on the couch. She'd only just returned from St. Mungo's and was very weak. She needed help just to get down the stairs. He could see she hated feeling weak and needy. She was restless; she needed action.
Luna was passive as always. She sat at the end of Ginny's couch, reading a book. Her presence was reassuring.
Neville watched them all from his chair. They didn't deserve this; none of them. If only it could've ended differently.
If only there had been another way.
If only Harry were here.
Dumbledore had said once that there is nothing sadder than a battle lost, save perhaps a battle won.
The room was completely silent.
The only sounds were breathing, flames crackling, and Luna turning the page in her book.
Hermione spoke up suddenly. Her voice was haunted and slow with a frightening calm to it: "It didn't have to be Harry."
They all waited, looking at her.
"The prophecy spoke of another; it didn't have to be Harry. It didn't have to be!! It didn't! It didn't! Why was Harry the one; why?" Hermione groaned, then buried her head in her arms. Ron gently stroked her hair.
"That's the thing, isn't it?" said Ginny. "Why did it have to be this way? Couldn't he have found another path, a way out? But don't you see," he eyes were shining and Luna gently pushed her back against the pillow. Even the smallest exertion could tire her out. "There was no other way. When he told us the prophecy, I thought, 'How can Harry do this?' because I didn't see him as a murderer. If he killed Voldemort, if he did the Avada Kedavra on him, it would be murder. He would be like Voldemort; he would be tainted, he would be evil, even a little bit. I didn't know how it would turn out…"
She subsided into silence.
Neville stared into the flames. There were no answers there.
It began to rain.
"The angels are crying," Neville murmured, remembering something Luna had once said.
He liked that image; if the angels cried, it meant they cared what happened down below. It meant they were watched over, here on earth.
Ginny started talking again, slowly. "It was beautiful though. The symbolism. The sacrifice. That he would do that for us…It 's amazing. Like a lamb to the slaughter, but he knew what he was doing, and what would happen, and he did it1 That's how much he cared for us…" She shifted painfully against the pillow, then continued, "He never told us. He knew we wouldn't let him…At church, I never thought of it before, but I started thinking; it was so perfect. Sad. Loving. Horrid. Beautiful…I don't know…." her face fell. "I've run out of adjectives."
Luna put down her book and smiled at Ginny, nodding. "I understand," she said simply, "I understand."
Ron looked at Neville, as if to ask what the girls were talking about, though he didn't open his mouth. Neville just looked at the fire.
The rain beat against the window. No one said anything.
"When I found out that it was Harry or Voldemort," said Hermione, "I wondered if there was some mistake." She was still looking with dead eyes at the flames. She spoke quietly, almost to herself. "I read it over again. A boy, born at the end of July, born to parents who thrice defied Voldemort. I found a list of former order members the first time around. It took five minutes, five minutes! I knew who it was, who could've had Harry's fate.
"I started thinking, then, how would our lives be? Would Harry be sitting here with us? Would the other boy's parents have died to save him? Or would he have died then, letting Voldemort take over Europe and the whole world. What would have happened? What would've happened?" She muttered herself into silence, and Ron stroked her hair again.
"Who was it?" Neville asked. They all stared at Hermione: Luna had put down her book, Ginny was leaning forward again, even Ron looked curious, a shadow of his old self.
Hermione turned her eyes away from the grate. They were no longer dead, but full of the same scorching flames that had so often burned there before, though now they were fueled with sadness instead of anger. Neville wanted to shy away from those eyes, but still she held his gaze, and, riveted, he could not turn away.
When Hermione spoke, it was quiet and simple: "It was you."
A/N: So………………………………………..? (I have ideas for other stories: one about Snape and why he really switched sides, one about Petegrew, what's going one in his head, and the part he might play at the end, and also I promise to someday update my story "Next Generation." I have the chapters figured out; there will be fourteen and then, possibly, either a sequel or short stories about the characters.)